Get ready to beat the heat this summer, the natural way. A city-based weaver has made a saree with fabric made from the Calotropis plant or what is commonly known among Chennaiites as Erukan chedi.
The weaver, C Sekar from Anakaputhur, who has earlier experimented with fabric made out of various natural fibres, says that fabric made from the seeds of the fragrant plant has a natural cooling effect and can protect one from skin diseases.
The flowers in Calotropis, which grow in abundance near lake bunds and in abandoned farmlands, are used as floral decoration during rituals. Sekar says that milkweed fibre – which also produces latex - can be extracted from the plant after drying the seeds under the hot sun for a day. The fibre looks like a softer version of cotton and is processed to make yarn along with a proportion of cotton - a process that could take about 10 days. “Some college students from Erode approached me asking if I could make a fabric out of Calotropis. That’s when I decided to experiment and my fellow weavers went in search of the plant and found it near water bodies,” he says.
Once a pure white yarn is made, it is then dyed before a saree is handwoven. “The fibre from the plant is soft, silky and shiny and hence it adds gloss to the end product. A simple design handwoven in a saree could give it a rich look and is also lightweight,” he adds.
A carefully handwoven saree from the milkweed fibre of Calotropis could take about three days to make and could cost around Rs 3,000 as Sekar says the process to extract fibre and make a yarn is laborious, time-consuming and requires skill.
Orders for the Calotropis or Erukan Chedi saree have already lined up not only from textile shops in the city but also from other countries like Singapore.