CHENNAI: Imagine lifting and holding 30 kg with a couple of square inches of your foot. Now imagine repeating the action hundreds of times a day. For years.
That is the work a weaver puts in to craft the famed, hand-woven Kanchipuram silk saree. This drudgery, which motivated thousands of weavers to abandon the craft for less labourious options over the years, might well be a thing of the past.
Chennai-based silk saree maker RmKV Silks has patented a mechanised version of the handloom that preserves the skill that goes into weaving and yet obviates the need to lift the weight kg with the foot.
“We have introduced two innovations to the traditional handloom - a pneumatic mechanism for heavy lifting tasks and an electronic jaquard controller. Both together virtually eliminate any physical strain that goes into the weaving process,” said K Sivakumar, managing director, RmKV Silks Pvt Ltd.
The Modernised Pneumatic Handloom (MPHL) works by making all lifting operations pneumatic and the strenuous jaquard card process electronic. All the technical improvements go much further than just making life easier for weavers. According to the developers, the production will go up as much as five-fold because of the lower turnover time for sarees. “A weaver who was able to produce three sarees can now make as many as 15 in the same time. It also reduces the labour needed for complicated sarees,” said Sivakumar. The new version of the handloom has been patented through the National Research Development Corporation. The arrangement will see the government entity act as the implementing agency for disseminating the improved version among non-RmKV weavers.
The primary focus for RmKV however is to bring in an untapped source into weaving — women. “Women have been unable to enter the field largely because of the demanding physical aspect of the work. Now only skill will be needed and women can enter the field too,” said Sivakumar.
This initiative of RmKV will be handled by Niranjana Viswanathan, director, RmKV. Around 50 women are set to be trained within six months in the new looms. The economic implications of the new loom is intriguing.