Carding and Spinning
Once the wool purchased from Bikaner is manually segregated and sorted, it finds itself in the hands of one of India’s rarest artists, the Katwari (spinner).
She sifts through the wool, layering the strands together, a process called carding. Placing a dollop of wool on a bristlebristled pad, she brushes it with another, removing clumped dirt, knots and giving the wool uniformity, gently caressing it to evolve into yarn.
In the wake of that tedious task, she channels centuries of Indian heritage through her hands, spinning the yarn on a charka (spinning wheel), with a meditative flow that brought back Indian independence, and is a permanent symbol of theto the nation’s values. The intertwined fibers of wool have a wave-like pattern of thick and thin, but sticksticks together to make the most durable form of yarn, somewhere in metaphoric representation to its Indian roots.
Being the most important step, It takes a minimum of two months to weave a rug, knot by knot, one row at a time by experienced artisans. Weaving has been an escape to many from the perils of the modern world, and has also birthed poetry that can only touch its essence.
Its uniqueness in art is through its style of knotting the rug,with such intricate detail that would leave experienced artists in confusion. Differentiating each knot was originally done by memory, where weavers would sing out the colours of the line of knots. To accommodate theaccommodate for the changing design palate, carpets are now woven by the help of maps, while more experienced weavers have started bringing out their art in the form of a unique carpet.
The back burning process is fairly straightforward. A carpet is placed at a distance from a flame, or a torch is taken over it. The flame singes the back of the carpet which clears out any loose strands, but more importantly tightens all the knots in place. When exposed to heat, the yarn recoils and shrinks which increases its durability immensely.
Washing and Gul Tarash
There are 18 finishing steps to a carpet. When all these steps are done by hand, it can take up to a month to glisten in perfection. Washing and Gul tarash are two of the most intriguing steps.
One step that can be easy to associate with is washing. It may sound simple, but there’s a reason carpets aren’t washed in every home. Each carpet isn’t washed, but rather bathed and groomed. Washers methodically pour water and mild cleansing solution to flush out the dirt and specks and at the same time increase the strength of the underlying knots. The technique is so effective, it uses a prescribed minimum amount of water and is done in 15 minutes!
Gul tarash, on the complicated end of the spectrum, translates to finding the flower where craftsmen would create a high-low effect that makes the flower patterns pop out. On modern designs it is used to highlight motifs or patterns, but also create a textural effect. This is done by the use of special scissors and the craftsman would etch out the pattern, being very particular in cutting out only the strands of yarn that need cutting. The focus puts you in a daze, but its outcome is soothing to the eyes.