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Unlock the Technique Behind Kanchipuram's World-Famous Handcrafted Sarees

Unlock the Technique Behind Kanchipuram's World-Famous Handcrafted Sarees

Kanchipuram sarees are renowned for their exquisite colours and intricate designs, with careful craftsmanship involved in each and every step of the process. From spinning the yarn to weaving the fabric and creating the complex patterns, learn about how these stunning sarees are made by hand!

Kanchipuram sarees, also known as Kanjeevaram, are a luxurious traditional silk sari originating from the town of Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu. The saris are characterized by their rich gold borders and colourful brocade designs. Each saree is carefully crafted in a very intricate process involving spinning, twisting and dyeing of yarns as well as hand weaving them on fly-shuttle pit looms. The elegant contrast colour borders are achieved through a unique technique called Korvai. Kanchipuram sarees are truly works of art that can be treasured for a lifetime!

Material and Tools Used

Mulberry Silk

The production of Kanchipuram sarees starts with the procurement of mulberry silk from Shidlaghatta, Ramanagaram and surrounding areas in Karnataka. After finely processing the raw silk, it is twisted for strength and intertwined with two threads to form a double warp. Every thread needs to be twisted - single or double warp - in order to bring out the silken lustre and smooth finish that Kanchi sarees are known for.

Jari (Zari)

The most defining feature of these sarees is its pure Zari, or golden thread which gives it an ornate and elegant look. The zari is typically made from pure silk thread electroplated with either copper, gold or silver. Other kinds of threads such as polyester can also be used for details on borders, motifs, and the pallu of the sari. Color zaris are also made to give it vibrant hues.

Spinning Wheel

Spinning is a process through which yarn is created from raw, unspun fibers. This involves using a spinning wheel, also known as a spindle, to twist and turn the fibers into a high-speed, fine thread. The spinning wheel is powered by hand and employs centrifugal force to rotate the spindles and produce the continuous thread that is then used for weaving or knitting.

Fly Shuttle

The Stuttle, or a fly-shuttle, is an essential weaving tool used to create the weft threads that make up fabric. It consists of a cylindrical body, made from a single piece of bamboo, with two spools of thread placed on either end. By throwing the shuttle through the warp threads during weaving, finer and more intricate patterns can be created.

Warping Machines

Warping machines are specialized machines used in textile weaving to draw the length of yarn required from spools. The yarn is then wound onto a warp beam, which is later loaded onto a loom. To create unique designs for borders and Pallu, additional equipment such as jala and jacquard is employed.


Looms have been around for centuries, and range from the traditional manual ones, to modern motorized looms, to hybrid looms which combine both manual and powered processes for greater variety in design. 

Punch Cards

Punch cards are pieces of paper, or another suitable material, that contain patterns or instructions. When these punch cards are fed into a jacquard machine, it reads the holes to determine the design or pattern; enabling it to produce intricate fabric designs quickly and accurately.

Dyeing Process

The dyeing process uses a combination of dyes, washing soda, soap oil, and boiling water to turn off-white silk yarns into vibrant hues. It all starts with huge copper containers being filled with boiling water. The powder dyes are added to make different colors, and the silk yarn is submerged in the Starch solution for stiffness before finally being dipped into the boiling potion. Segments of silk raw materials are separated into three portions for dyeing. A single color can be used in the border and pallu areas of a sari, while for the body part it is often contrasted with the first two. After the dyeing process is done, residual color is removed from the yarn by immersing it in plain water. Popular colors used include red, green, blue and mustard. Lastly, the colored yarn is left to dry out for two to three days before being used in further production.

The Traditional Spinning Process

The traditional spinning process uses a combination of bamboo spools and spinning wheels to create yarn. Colored silk strands are first wound onto the bamboo spool before being moved to the spinning wheel. The yarn from each spool is reeled onto individual spindles, which can then be used for weaving on the loom. This traditional spinning process helps avoid entanglement in the yarn and ensures smoother weaving.

The Warping Process

The warping process is one of the most tedious processes in the creation of silk sari. In this process, the dyed silk yarn is brought together on a street, usually in the morning to avoid sun exposure. The yarn is then tied between two poles, knotted, and checked for entanglement. Cotton thread is laced into the warp to trace any tangled threads. After that, the yarn length is loaded onto a warping machine to create warp beams for weaving. This beam typically has an 18-meter length and can be used to make three 6-meter-long saris. A team of 3 to 5 artisans is needed to complete this process, involving 5000 - 6000 two-ply warp thread and four-ply weft thread that weighs 300 - 400 grams and 400 - 500 grams respectively. Jari weights can range anywhere from 15gms to 100gms depending on the design.

Weaving Proccess

Warp Loading

Warp loading is the process of threading a loom prior to weaving. The yarn is spooled onto an iron rod, then that 'warp sheet' is moved into the weavers beam where strands are connected one-by-one and threaded between the reeds and healds. Traditionally, this process is done manually usually by women, and can take anywhere from two to three days to complete.

Punch Card Making and Loading

Punch card loading is part of the automated design process for silk saris. First, the motif is scanned and traced before it is loaded onto punch cards. Then a chain of punch cards is attached to a jacquard machine, which uses the designs from the cards to weave fabric. This technology-enabled method drastically reduces time compared to traditional design processes.

Weaving on the Handloom

Handloom weaving involves interlocking threads of warp and weft with a shuttle running between them. The proton of the woven cloth is wound onto a wooden beam, and when full, the unwoven stands are cut out. Depending on the pattern complexity, one sari typically takes 4 to 6 days to weave. Jari threads are often used for especially intricate tissue sarees which can weigh up to 1.3kg when complete. The process can require help from one or two persons when doing long warps, but is overall a fascinating art form.

Motifs, Border and Pallu

Kanchipuram saris, known for their intricate hand woven designs, are produced from fine counts of silk and typically weigh in at 750-1000 grams.

The borders and pallu are designed with beautiful motifs such as stylized flowers, natural leaves and fruits. Popular Hindu temple inspired motif patterns include the peacock's eye (Mayilkan) as well as swans, parrots and rudraksha beads.

The Ganga-Jamuna technique is a signature style which consists of two colored borders on the same sari. Checks, stripes and other prints also appear in many motifs.

These traditional garments undergo a unique Petni and Korvai technique to produce twisted three-ply thread patterns with extra zari warp and weft detailing. This contributes to their durability and enhances the sari's shine and luster.


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