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Ikkat Maker

Interview Summary

Ikkat making is nearly extinct in Kachchh. Only one craftsman in Bhuj makes the exotic, expensive and vibrant ikkat sarees, scarfs, stoles and duppats of many different designs.

At first, the ikkat makers have to decide how many strands (tar) the raw silk used for the process has to be converted into; either one, three, five and eight. The raw silk is passed through a degumming process for a smoother and soft feel to the fabric (known as var chadia). This process also makes the material extremely hard-wearing and durable, which is very rare with silk fabric. Once the silk is ready for use, the laborious process of twisting, tying and dyeing commences. The most challenging aspect is dyeing as there are multiple colours (often between five and seven) on a traditional ikkat design. Normally, a single ikkat piece takes 15 to 20 days to complete, and a double ikkat can take up to six months. The cost of making such ikkat pieces obviously varies considerably: a single ikkat starts from five thousand rupees, but the double ikkat is only affordable for the very wealthy, costing around 2 lakhs or more.