“With sub zero temperatures in Manali in December, it was bizarre how these simple humans did such complex jobs, while humming Indian tunes from the 70's. What intrigued me the most was the processes before the weaving even starts and the number of hands involved in the making process.

We hiked to the Shepherd village on the mountain that shadows the Kullu valley and met with the tribes that herd the sheep. It's hard work, sacrifice and commitment! One man from the family follows the sheep throughout the year, through grasslands and forests, in hail and rain, making sure of their safety from the leopards, while ensuring the sheep get fresh, healthy greens to graze on.

It is from these mountains that wool is sourced and processed into yarn at the unit in Manali. From the yarn, starts the process of warp and weft.

A warp is the stationery part of the weave that stays in tension all the time, through which the weft goes in and out from left to right, to knit one piece of fabric.

Now, depending on the thread count and specific design, one person spends next five hours meditating with each of the 40 reels with different threads, wrapping on a huge circular wheel in a specific pattern, one thread at a time to prepare the warp. In the next step, the warp is set on the loom where each thread is again manually put through the narrow combs of the loom and tied. This takes about three hours for an experienced craftsman to finish. All this happens with zero error, else you're sitting on metres of separate inter-twisted rows of precious threads that no force in the universe can disentangle!

Only after each thread is tied to the loom by hand, does the weaver starts to weave. Once the loom is set, the weaver sits on the loom with all their attention on one weft at a time, while keeping in mind the required pattern of each Cape. Each Cape takes about four to five hours of intense meditative weaving. 

One interesting thing I discovered is how each weaver weaves with their current emotional state, which shows in the weave as well. A weaver who is upset or tense might weave tighter, and the same weaver when in a happy or positive emotional state will keep it more relaxed and uniform. It's like they literally weave their emotions into the Capes that you wear.”

Photographer Akshat Ghildiyal recently documented what goes on behind-the-scenes of our JULAHAS Capes coming to life. This is his story.



January 28, 2020 — Kanak Hirani

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