Technology has had an all-pervasive influence on our society and
traditional crafts like handloom and saree weaving have not been left out
of its trail. Many saree weaving centres have begun using computer-
aided design software to reduce production time. However, in this hype
of mass-production the language of motifs has seen a significant shift
from traditional hand-coven techniques. Read more to understand the
impact of virtual tools on design detail.
With the advent of fast fashion and mass production of apparel weaver
clusters across the country have embraced technology with great gusto.
The once traditional weaving centres have replaced generation old
looms for virtual tools to create computer aided designs on handlooms.
Textile software offers new forms of visual expression with various
features like the creation and manipulation of design, planning weave
structures, visualisation of final product and design card generation.
This, in addition, to faster turnaround times leading to greater
production. But this technological hype brings some drawbacks.
Even the most specialised software available cannot handle intricacies
involved in designing an elaborate saree. It is difficult to collectively
visualise the border, palla, and body. Design simulations, say experts,
are nowhere near desired levels of perfection. Some kinds of software
popularly used at brocade weaving centres, like Varanasi and
Kanchipuram, are more suited to handling crude mechanical tasks of
design. All this has a huge impact on overall design and language of
For instance, take India’s rich heritage of embroidery designs practiced
by castes across regions which have sought inspiration from folklore and
customs, and practiced by women of different castes and classes:
Kantha of Bengal, Kashida of Bihar, Kutch and Kathiawar of Gujarat,
Chamba Rumal of Himachal Pradesh, Kasuti of Karnataka, Kashida of
Kashmir, embroidery of Manipur, applique craft of Orissa, Phulkari of
Punjab, embroidery of Rajasthan and Chikankari of Uttar Pradesh.
These motifs and borders are a work of intricate craftsmanship mastered
over years. However, with the advent of virtual tools, inherent form and
shape of these motifs have undergone alterations thereby changing its
Take the example of affronte parrots, a common motif in Gujarati
embroidery. This is symbolised by two parrots facing each other with a
floral motif in between them. A digitized version changes its dimensions.
Compare the two closely and you will see that the beak and wings are
slightly longer than in embroidered version. Similarly, the parrot’s body
which normally tapers into the tail, is now more or less of similar width.
Likewise, the mirrored fish or two fished facing each with their mouths
touching coupled with a floral bud in the centre, see some alterations
too. In the digitized output eyes of both fish are larger and body less
curved. Also, dots on the body are more closely fitted within a square as
opposed to an uneven spread when embroidered. Lastly, the digitized
version has more space between fishes’ body and floral bud.
Then take even a simple motif like the three-petaled flower bud that is
usually spread across the body of a saree. Digitizing this makes the
three petals more loosely arranged to each other than in embroidered
motifs. Also, the third leaf on the top is more elongated in computerized
Beyond changing the language and design saree visualisation on the
computer has other drawbacks. Simultaneous comparisons of designs
are difficult, precise representations of certain techniques can become
tricky, scale judgements in large design formats can be misleading and
colour calibrations require more effort. Design simulations are nowhere
near the desirable perfection level. Some kind of software popularly
used at brocade weaving centres, like Varanasi and Kanchipuram, are
more suited to handling crude mechanical tasks of design. Experts
believe that developing a pool of digital platforms with a combination of
different kinds of software will be helpful to the process of designing a
saree. With this motif visualisation can be created with one software and
design manipulation and pattern through another.
So before you buy another saree, look for design detail and see the
language you want to adopt for life.
- Increase output
- Change characteristic of motifs
- Cannot handle intricacies of motif design
Reference Books/ Source: Indian Sarees: Traditions- Perspectives – Designs; Digitizing Conventional Patterns of Gujarat Embroidery and Product Development - Thesis submitted to the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad for Degree of Master of Home Science in Textiles and Apparel Designing By Shameembanu A. Byadgi
Shonali Advani is a trained journalist, having worked previously with leading publications such as the Economic Times and the Entrepreneur magazine. She is now a freelance writer with a keen interest in arts, culture, and heritage and brings this passion to her posts for The Registry of Sarees.