How to tell the difference between handloom and power-loom fabric

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All the fabric used to create the clothing we sell at Chapel Collection has been produced by a handloom, this is a loom which is manually operated by a skilled human, rather than machinery. The result is fabric which is completely unique and intricate in detail, creating clothing of the finest quality by works who are extremely proud of their creations. However, this ancient craft is widely being replaced, with many fabric producers choosing to use cheap power-looms over handlooms. Every inch of fabric produced on a power-loom is an exact replica of itself, no skill is needed by workers who handle the machinery and each worker is simply a cog in the machine - with no opportunity to take any individual pride in their work.

Unfortunately, producing fabric on a handloom is a dying skill, rapidly being replaced by power-looms simply because they produce fabric faster and at cheaper rates. However, there are still communities in the remote areas who refuse to give up their tradition and what they stand for and carry on using handlooms. It's these skilled craftsmen and women that our designers seek out to produce their clothing we sell at Chapel Collection and we're extremely proud of that.

Below we've listed ways you can tell the difference between hand and power-loom produced fabric.

1. A handloom, by its very nature of being handwoven, is bound to have a rugged uneven surface giving it an ethnic appeal. Knots, thread pulls, near the border are a commonality in handwoven fabric. Even if woven with the same yarns, a power-loom fabric will be even in texture and flawless, lacking the allure of handlooms.

3. Handloom fabric is often soft in texture and more resilient whereas power-loom fabric will be stiff and hard in feel due to compact weaving and even spreading of the weft which happens in power loom. To test the softness & its malleability, one must drape the fabric and check its feel.

4. Handloom fabric often has extra threads left at the end of the pallu, which can be used for making tassels.

5.  The reverse side is a replica in a handloom whereas in a power-loom lot of loose threads or floats will be hanging on the reverse side, as it’s not possible to weave them in if woven on power-loom. So to test, one must turn over the fabric and check the backside.

Handlooms have a certain advantage over power-looms too. And to know this is useful, as this throws light upon their design possibilities, durability and strength. So here are a few facts…

1. Artisans work arduously to weave minute details. The level of intricacy and sharpness of design cannot be matched in a power loom. Authentic handlooms are decorated with intricate, traditional Persian patterns like Amru, Ambi and Domak. Machine-made weaves don’t usually use these traditional patterns or carry the level of detailing that handlooms do. Certain kinds of weaving techniques are only possible on the handloom. For instance, the banarasikadhwa weave cannot be replicated on the power loom.

2. Power-loom exerts a unique pressure which thins the fabric and thus a handloom item of clothing which uses the same raw materials will be heavier and will have more body. When you hold the item of clothing you can feel the body strength.

3. Due to loose weaving of handlooms, which also makes them more resilient as mentioned earlier, they breathe, allowing air to pass through whereas in power-looms you experience a feeling of blockage.

4. Due to uneven weft weaving of handloom, they have better recovery from creases or wrinkles as compared with power-looms.

5. Due to the thinness of the fabric woven on power-loom, caused by speed resulting in abrasion, the weaker fibres break and sometimes a group of short or broken fibres on the surface of the fabric become tangled together in tiny balls and a pill is formed. This reduces the strength of the fabric whereas in handloom clothing this does not happen. In handloom fabric, the knots are subdued and near the border, whereas in a power-loom it can happen anywhere and it protrudes out.

The above facts were taken from The Deccan Chronical

Amanda OliverComment