India’s Handloom Weavers (19.09.16)

The wonderful kaleidoscope of colours and patterns, hand woven in cottons and silks, creating ever-present collages of colourful cloth across India, is legendary. What is perhaps less well known is the army of handloom weavers who ply their skilled trade, as passed down over the generations.


It is a trade that is sadly under threat, as consumers turn to mass-produced fabric as a cheap alternative. The longevity of the hand-weaving industry in India is under question, despite the important role it plays in the country’s economy. Strewn across just about every state in India, it offers employment to the largest number of rural people, after agriculture. Forty per cent of the industry workforce are women.


With even conservative government estimates putting the handloom weaving workforce at nearly 500,000, the importance of the trade, as a primary source of income to some of the poorest families, is considerable. Having visited and appreciated first hand a number of weaving establishments and garment outlets over the years, we at Nomadic Thoughts feel it is important to highlight, promote and support one of the country’s oldest and most well-respected industries.


Consequently we encourage our clients to take any chance to see handmade fabrics for themselves, while it is still possible. At a time when the Indian government are aiming to develop local skills, the alternative for weavers, who are skilled but not educated, is to become de-skilled labourers or street hawkers.

The high standard of handmade fabric – and the garments they produce – continue to hold their own in quality, comfort and style. Looms whirl away producing handwoven material for dhotis, sarees, shawls, clothing, soft furnishing and other everyday fabrics.


As these photos show, visiting a grassroots weaving house in action is as much fun as it is inspirational. The pride of the weavers is infectious, with a strong feeling of community in which everyone supports each other, family by family.