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Weaving and structure of Khesh saris

Amongst other traditional saris of Bengal, Khesh saree are unique in weaving and structure. Santiniketan set the tradition of recycled textiles in Birbhum and ‘Khesh’ weaving is practiced in the Birbhum district and adjoining areas of West Bengal. It’s simply amazing to see how the colours of the old saris chosen completely at random blend beautifully to produce a fabric.

Cotton as a fibre can be spun in different ways and the resulting yarn can be made into different fabrics in a variety of ways including by weaving. Weaving is a method which involves one set of yarns or threads called ‘warp’ being intersected and criss-crossed over and under by another set of threads called ‘weft’. Patterns are created by manipulating the sequence of over-under intersections involving many weave structures, and within those structures, many more possible patterns.

‘Khesh’ weaving is practiced in the Birbhum district of West Bengal. It is woven with a new set of warp which is either cotton or a combination of silk and cotton. The weft insertions compromise of strips of old saris. The artisans collect old cotton saris from the possible resources and cut them by a technique which they have mastered which gives them a number of strips from one sari. Synthetic, silk and  pure linen sarees price have also been used these days for tearing.  Experiments using synthetic saris have also been undertaken. Generally a sari yields seventy- eighty strips.These cloth strips are then woven into the new set of warp and the fabric is called ‘Khesh’.

Initially Khesh saree was always woven with thick or double yarn as traditionally the weavers produced only bedcovers. Six saris are required for a single bedcover and ten for a double. Most weavers shied away from using Khesh technique for making saris as they felt the warp would tear if woven with the thin strips for the weft. Later one experienced weaver agreed to make it. The sari had plain white body with Khesh weaving in the pallu. Though the pallu looked too heavy compared to the rest of the sari, the result was praiseworthy.  The beauty of Khesh technique lies in the fact that the colour of weft is completely a matter of chance. The designer or weaver can only decide the colour for warp. The weaver hangs the old strips beside him for easy access and weaves with whichever he picks up randomly.

The experiment was repeated with spacing out the old sari lines in the palluand a few stripes of Khesh were added in the body of the sari.With time Khesh weaving has undergone much evolution using many colours and patterns in terms of design. Weavers of Birbhum have benefitted from this new usage of their skill and have one more feather in the cap. A lot of designers are working with Khesh fabric and introducing different patterns in Khesh saris using old and new techniques. Khesh saris of Bengal and Handloom Sarees Designs are now included in the tradional saris of Bengal and Khesh saris have become a fashion statement.

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