Technological makeover

Print edition : October 07, 2005

AT the click of the mouse, the traditional Kancheepuram silk weavers are now able to get into the world of new colour combinations and design options. By freezing the frames, punching the design cards and installing them in their looms, they are able to make complicated designs in any combination of colours.

Getting over all problems of manual designing, the punching card software helps check the distance between the grid points in a punch card that helps to bind the zari in the sari. According to S. Nagaraj, Special Officer, Anna Cooperative Silk Weaving Society, the making of Jacquard borders that requires considerable manual skill, has got a boost with computer designing. Now even the most complicated and intricate of designs can be done easily, quickly and accurately.

This computer software, introduced by the Central Silk Board and some private entrepreneurs, help the weavers offer a wide range of options to the customers. They no longer have to be content with the traditional designs of mango, peacock or temple towers. Instead, they can choose from an impressive catalogue of colours and designs, or even suggest their own patterns and colour combinations.

RmKV Silks, for instance, recently created a record by using more than 50,000 colours in one sari. It offers customers a choice of "wear a sari in any of these colours". Similarly Pothy's, a major silk sari house in Chennai, has created another record by weaving the longest sari - of 1,276 feet (389 m) - depicting scenes from 5,000 years of Indian history. Kancheepuram weavers have also woven on saris scenes from the epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, all with the help of the computer design software.

The number of designs has also swelled from 500 to 5,000. Technology has made designs more accurate and intricate. A celebrity like Aishwarya Rai or Shah Rukh Khan, or any person of the customer's choice, can now be on the border, pallu or the body of the sari.

Computerisation of the designs has helped the weavers complete a silk sari in 15 to 20 days against the earlier production time of 30 days. Significantly, by cutting down the production time, the weaver is now able to weave more and earn more. The only problem, according to Nagaraj, is to market these exquisite silk saris, particularly in the face of changing consumer preferences, soaring competition from spurious producers and the rising input costs.

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