The weavers of Varanasi use various weaving techniques that are very specific and traditional, being in their culture for centuries. Varanasi Weavers project was able to document most of these techniques. These are used in the production of the scarves and dupattas.
The main characteristics and a short technical summary of these are below:
Jamdani is characterized by using a light and translucent fabric with the patterns in thicker thread for an effect. It is an extra weft technique.
Jangla technique includes heavy and intricate weaving with vegetation motifs, such as creepers, flowers and birds, which are representative of a jungle. The patterns are woven only in gold and silver zari, on Jacquard loom.
Cutwork is a simplified form of Jamdani in which the pattern is not spread but instead runs from edge to edge. Hence, loose ends which do not form a part of the design are left floating and are cut after completion of the weaving.
Technically, Tanchoi is a warp-faced, satin base fabric that has a single warp or double warp with design on weft from one to five colours. Both sides of Tanchoi are finished and it doesn't have float on either side. The throw shuttle weaving is employed.
Tanchoi is always woven using silk extra weft ornamentation on a silk ground of plain, twill or satin weave. The extra weft ornamentation on the surface is very dense and well packed.
The motifs used are always very fine and intricate in comparison with other products of Varanasi. The Tanchoi surface always looks multicoloured or colours are spread all over.Tanchoi is further classified into Satin Tanchoi, Satin Jari Tanchoi, Atlas/Gilt, Mushabbar, depending on the intricacy, the technique and the threads that are used.
Satin Tanchoi – It is a warp face satin fabric base, of a single colour and with weft threads of one or more colours. It is woven warp face on handloom. The additional weft colours can also be used as a body weft. Two weaving techniques of Satin Tanchoi: Paththa Naka and Ektara Naka.
Paththa Naka: Characterized by bold designs. In this technique there are 5 ends in one dent and in one Naka, and one Naka is attached to one thread of Pagia.
Ektara Naka: The designs are one of the finest. There are 5 ends in one dent but in the Pagia they are separated into two, of three ends and two ends each respectively. Therefore two picks have to be inserted as two Pagias have to be lifted. This allows for a greater flow in the movement of design. Three ends in one Naka and two ends in another Naka.
It is woven on 3, 4, 5, 8 and 12 shafts. 5 shaft satin is most commonly used.
Satin Jari Tanchoi: This is an extension of Satin Tanchoi wherein the weft is a combination of either one silk and one gold thread or two silk threads and one gold thread.
Atlas or Gilt: The fabric surface is pure satin. In comparison to other fabrics, Atlas or Gilt is heavier and has more shine because of the extra use of zari.
Mushabbar: This version stands out with its net woven design to appear as bushes or branches of a tree. The Mushabbar design is often associated with a jungle or nature’s greenery.
It is a technique of making the entire cloth translucent and golden. It is made of a single silk warp and single gold weft. Sometimes, an extra weft technique is used for laying patterns.
The patterns are of gold and silk threads along the entire body and of coloured threads in the borders and pallu.
Kimkhwab or Kinkhab (that translates to golden dream) are the best known brocades from Varanasi. Its speciality is the use of profuse gold or silver thread that sometimes the silk background is hardly visible. These are mainly used to make heavy ceremonial robes, hangings and furnishings.
(Brocade: a fabric with a woven pattern which is purely decorative and independent of structure of the cloth which is achieved using extra pattern weft or extra warp.)
There are varieties of Kimkhwab - Alfi, Tashi, Baftan/Katan or Pot Than, Himru/Amru - depending on the technique and thread used.
Alfi: A kind of patterned zari brocade, where the gold or silver zari butis are outlined with single or double coloured thread, and pattern is called meenakari (enamelling).
In Alfi, only the outline of the pattern is made with coloured silk, the inner work is always either in gold or silver thread.
Tashi: A variety of Kinkhwab which has the ground worked with an extra warp of gold badla zari and the pattern created with an extra weft of silver Badla Zari or vice versa. Another kind is called Meenatashi, where patterns are woven either with gold or silver, combined with coloured threads on a golden or silver background.
In the Tash Badla variety Badla (flat wire) is used in as extra weft on silk warp. These fabrics were sold by their weight.
Bafta or Katan or Pot Than brocades: In these brocades the silk background is lightly patterned with plain weave or twills of silk thread or zari, hence, the material is lighter.
Himru or Amru: These are woven like kinkhwabs without the use of kalabattu (zari). The pattern is woven with silk thread on silk.
The silk weft, which is used for patterning is thrown over the surface only here and there, where the actual pattern appears, rest of the weft being left loosely hanging underneath.
This is a mixed fabric with a woven striped or zigzag pattern, where the entire surface is fully covered with silk in regular satin weave. The warp and weft used were of two different materials (in different colours): Silk and cotton, Cotton and linen, Silk and wool, Wool and cotton.
The types of Mashru are based on the two materials being used in the warp and the weft, and the technique namely Gulbadan (cotton and silk), Sangi, Galta and Ilaycha. Out of these, Sangi and Galta techniques are extinct.
In this technique the body or ground of the saree is multi coloured, obtained by Karuwa technique using different colours of weft woven by interlocking method. Rangkat literally translates to ‘break of colour’.
Weavers of Madanpura wove a lightweight and fine silk gauze material called Suti Banarasi, with cotton warp and silk weft, and the patterns were woven with gold and silver thread.
A three shuttle technique was used in Varanas, Chanderi and in South India. Here, two weft shuttles were used for weaving contrast borders and one for the ground.