Bhujodi, a village in Kutch, Gujarat, has been home to weavers for more than 500 years. This village has watched the change in our world as fabric went from necessity to commodity and most recently, an expression of joy.
The way the village worked was simple—the Rabari community were the cattle rearers who provided wool, and the Vankar community would weave that wool on their narrow looms into shawls. This give-and-take system worked beautifully for years, and with time, the entrepreneurial streak in the Vankars was evidently shining. They experimented with naturally grown cotton, sourced locally. Though the woven fabric was extremely thick and served limited purposes, it allowed weavers to play around with colourful, intricate designs. In the meantime, the loom—which was manually operated—saw upgradations with the addition of a foot-over pedal that improved control on the shuttle movement. This unequivocally eased the process of weaving. A meeting with a designer led them to their next experiment—broadening their looms and weaving fine cotton. This new fabric had up to 70 threads per square against the usual 24.
Procuring it from local sources, this fine fabric could be fashioned into contemporary styles that allowed ease and comfort to the wearer. The process saw the women make yarn on a local spinning wheel called charkha and prepare the warp. The men wove, and the women added finishing details. One piece would take anywhere from days to months to weave. Today, the Vankars still use wool from local sheep, but their handwoven cotton has gained popularity, turning their business into a thriving one. Weavers are artists—they’re ever evolving, just like the times. Their busy fingers and busy minds think and re-think possibilities of what more can be created. Their warm and welcoming nature lets them share their knowledge with each other, improving and innovating together, while also educating their younger generation. More importantly, they wear their own handwoven fabrics. With pride.