Hand Weaving


All items under the Original Madras Trading Company turmeric yellow selvage label are made by us using single weaver cloth hand woven on a handloom.  Single weaver cloth means fabric that is woven by one individual weaver from start to finish using a completely manual handloom to interlace two sets of individual yarns.  One set being the warp or length of the cloth and the other set being the weft or the width of the cloth.


In terms of production single weaver handloom cloth is much, much slower than ubiquitous machine loom fabric.  For comparison, it takes our master handloom weavers 2-3 hours to weave one meter of fabric depending on the complexity of the pattern whereas current machine looms are able to weave at a continuous rate of one meter every 5-10 minutes regardless of the complexity of the pattern.  That means that on average weaving by handloom is 30 to 40 times slower than ordinary machine loom.  This massive production limitation is the reason for hand weaving being so extremely rare today.


Then why do we do it?  For many good reasons:


Weaving by hand allows much more freedom of design than mechanized weaving.  Machine looms are limited to  a maximum of 8 yarn colors in a fabric design whereas a handloom weaver can use as many different colors of yarn as desired.  This enables us to create endless shade variations and achieve real depth of color in a cloth.  The production runs for handwoven cloth are much lower than the minimums needed to produce machine made fabric.  Unimpeded by production minimums we are able to produce a limitless number of short run exclusive designs and experiment freely.  Another distinct design advantage to single weaver handloom is that the combination of small production runs and the skill of our weavers allow cloths to be specifically engineered for unique items, be it a shirt, jacket, pocket square, cushion cover,…


No two lengths of cloth are identical.  There is an inherent beauty in handwoven cloth which we believe comes in part from the imperfections and randomness woven into it.  We do not see the job of the handloom weaver as that of mimicking a machine.  We strive with our weavers to achieve beautiful craftsmanship rather than machine like uniformity.  In today’s age of high tech mass production, sophisticated consumers no longer confuse perfection with absolute uniformity or consistency and instead find beauty in singularity and idiosyncrasy.  If there is a single irregularity in a fabric made on a machine loom, there is a technical problem with the loom.  Whereas if we have a few irregularities in a cloth made on one of our handlooms we know we have a weaver with a soul.  The unique irregularities that occur in single weaver made cloth are to be recognized as perfect imperfections.  That is what it is all about – its a feature not a flub.


The female to male ratio of employment in handloom weaving is the highest for any category of textile manufacturing in India and possibly worldwide.  This helps to empower women and enables us to benefit from having a gender neutral workplace in both our handloom weaving and our garment manufacturing.


Like all handmade things, handloom cloth is testimony of human endeavor and its experience that we all share.  Every inch is woven through states of inspired creativity, stubborn perseverance, concentration, frustration,…  Yards have been woven first thing in the morning and into the afternoon,  some of it is woven with energy, some with tiredness, some with boredom but most often and most beautifully, just lost in the flow.  Each weft in handloom cloth is like a ring in a tree trunk, it marks a moment in time and in life.  It is a pleasure to recognize that when you are wearing hand woven Madras.


The simple fact that handlooms do not use electricity makes the weaving process highly sustainable.  Handloom weaving also has a strong tradition of avoiding any wastage that adds to its sustainability and low carbon footprint.  This lack of wastefulness undoubtedly stems from the slow pace of weaving by hand that instills care and attention and a natural mindfulness.  A true slow movement going back hundreds of years.


We have returned to the origin of weaving on hand looms for everything we make under our Original Madras Trading Company label not as a gimmick but because it is a medium, a tradition, and a way of work and life that we want to see continue and to allow a larger public to access and appreciate.  Weaving by hand is a slow process that promotes frugality and gratitude.  Values that we think need to be promoted in manufacturing today because they are at risk of disappearing with the effortlessness and mindlessness of machine production.


Weaving by hand is a clear manifestation of our putting other values above productivity.  Along with making beautiful cloth we contribute to preserve and enhance the unique skill set of the handloom weaver.  Our weavers are true craftspeople that take great pride in their work and in continuing the tradition of passing on their knowledge and skill from one generation to the next.  Through the creation of unique and beautiful clothing and accessories, our handloom project serves to support and raise a community of weavers that are thrilled to see their work newly valued.


My father and grandfather recognized that hand woven Madras cloth is an exceptional product that we want to continue to produce because it would be a tragedy to see it disappear.  We have made an unqualified commitment to our handloom project that is driven by a desire to see beautiful things made and a tradition continue and thrive.