Taanbaan is a label that produces and markets textiles of excellence in handspun/handwoven indigenous low twist silks & rain fed cottons. It is involved in research, revival & development of the hand skill techniques particularly in draped unstitched garments, homefurnishings, & stitched accessories.
Taanbaan was initiated by Rta Kapur Chishti, who is a recognized textile scholar, co-author and editor of the ‘Saris of India’ volumes. She began the production of textiles of excellence in the 1990s with available technology and in 2004, to continue the revival and regeneration of the ancient Indian craft of hand spinning and hand weaving.
Towards the turn of the century, the Volkart Foundation, Switzerland to honor & recognize their two hundred year old association with India through their cotton & coffee trade, supported an exhibition titled ‘Khadi’ –The Fabric of Freedom, curated by Martand Singh with Rahul Jain, Rakesh Thakore & Rta Kapur Chishti. Following this unique initiative the exhibition & its outcome was handed over to Rta Kapur Chishti & her team at Taanbaan led by her long standing colleague Pallavi Verma, for its further nourishment & development.
This low tech high skill initiative was started with a push start grant by the Volkart Foundation in Andhra Pradesh where it became self supporting within a period of 12- 16 months starting with four looms enlarged over the years. It is now active in three states. Each loom supported by a cultivator, six to seven spinners, one dyer & two to three weavers. Therefore the chain of productivity enabled & involved several families in an active &life
sustaining home based development. It was realized that the cotton quality & availability was not reliable & therefore a further collaboration was initiated with other cultivators. Can one really estimate the value of a handmade original whether it be an art work or a textile? It is the process that goes into its making that gives it the quality of luxury beyond compare!
Far beyond its soft, supple breathable texture that is apparent & palpable. It could be imitated by machine but not replicated. That’s what makes it special for varied usage. These handspun hand-wovens work hand in hand with the cycle of nature particularly in the case of Desi local cottons in various hues of white to brown, cultivated between autumn & spring in soil & climate they have matured in, over hundreds of years fed only by rain & not
dependent on pesticide or fertilizer except a spray of neem oil for protection.
The finesse & patience of the effort is wondrous & often we forget that this is the outcome of six to ten dexterous cultivators of raw material.. spinners.. dyers.. & weavers who have made it possible to make textiles that look so simple but are in reality the finest that human hands can create with humble cotton which is a far more difficult material than the more highly valued silks. The spinning & weaving skills have been practiced for hundreds of years & attuned by the practitioners to a refined state. Though the practitioner has had the option of shifting to other mechanized alternatives, they have chosen to maintain their hand skills which they find easier to handle & thus have become a long standing tradition- One that is rare & somewhat endangered as quantitative production pushes out this recognition of quality. It is this skill level & knowledge base & continuity which proceeded even the Gandhian hand-spinning movement, which has however raised the cost factor of handspun hand-wovens.
In the early 21st century, in the field of textiles, India has been fortunate to have pockets of hand skills that were and could be its greatest and most unique resource for future development given a form of limited period hand holding.
At present Taanbaan has sustained hand-spinning on the traditional spinning wheel though this has been entirely decimated in most parts of the country by the semi-mechanized ambar charkha which was inspired by its mill-made counterpart, as it can deliver quantity production but not necessarily the range and quality of the traditional charkha, which are distinctive. Unfortunately, these varieties of cotton & hand reeled silks have been discouraged due to the slow process involved in their making & also through hybridization and GM varieties in cotton & the over emphasis & importance given to mulberry silks over the indigenous range.
What is the difference between desi charkha and ambar charkha?
The hand spun yarns of the traditional spinning wheel have a much lower twist than the mechanized Amber spinning wheel which is a manual counterpart to the mill spinning mechanism. Thus, the fabric developed through weaving of hand spun yarn is more soft, supple and absorbent.
Why desi charkha ORGANIC fabrics?
Indigenous short staple rain fed organic cottons are ideal for handspinning on traditional charkha as the fibres are uneven not linear & interlock easily on a hand drawn spinning wheel.
These indigenous cottons are hardy & require no extraneous inputs of ground water irrigation, fertilizer & pesticide except a mild protection with neem oil spray.
Each handloom can provide gainful employment for 7 to 15 women & men from the cultivation stage, through cleaning, combing, carding, handspinng & handweaving in techniques that machines cannot easily or economically replicate.
This could give India a monopoly in textured & patterned textiles, besides providing an ecologically sustainable economic & social model for development.
This model also provides employment in fine hand skills for large numbers of women.
Cotton seeds of indigenous cottons are extracted by hand & selection of the best unbroken seeds are used for the next sowing & do not have to be purchased. The faulty or broken seeds are used or sold as high protein animal feed.
Drawing and twisting by hand renders an uneven texture and low twist to create greater absorbency for summer and warmth in winter.
Ideal for wearing and home use.
Healthy, supple, soft and soothing to touch for any skin type.
WHY HAND REELED OR LOW-TWIST SILKS?
There are numerous varieties of silks in India but we are losing these, not only because of the predominance of mulberry silk which was traditionally cultivated only in Kashmir in the north & in the Bishnupur region of West Bengal until Tipu Sultan introduced it in Karnataka & the British promoted it further. We have had more than 30 varieties of tussar silk, 3 to 6 varieties of Eri & Muga. In all these varieties upto the first 600mts can be machine reeled from the centre most part of the cocoon but as soon as it becomes slightly irregular, it breaks in the machine reeling process. This is where we have the greatest advantage & capability to hand reel these silk yarns to varying thickness to suit the needs of extra warp & extra weft patterning or even slubbing in coarse textures for home products or floor coverings.
Each variety of silk has a different hue and colour because of the tree leaves they feed on and they range from beige through shades of brown to natural gold. The neglect of certain varieties of silk has made their cultivation decline along with hand reeling.
Process pictures with captions 1 to 3 can be put here.
Hand reeling provides not only a wide range of yarns but also gainful employment to large number of women in the shade of their own home.
These uneven silk yarns could provide India an added advantage in the Indian & world market with a texture element that is missing in machine reeled silks.
These uneven silk filaments would be rendered useless & be used as high protein animal feed if they were not used for a better economic purpose.
Handspinning of cotton on the traditional Desi Charkha/ traditional spinning wheel unfortunately, has become the most neglected & forgotten area whereas, the faster semi-mechanized Ambar Charkha has been in favour over the last 50 years. Therefore, a determined effort is being made to develop hand spinning upto 115s count on the Desi Charkha & develop 115s to 500s count on the Ambar Charkha so that they do not compete with mill yarns which averages at 120s count.
Taanbaan believes hand-spun hand-woven is the R&D base of the textile pyramid and needs to be sustained for not only the growth of organic, rain-fed indigenous cottons & silks that cannot be machine reeled. These hand processed spun & woven range of products would also maintain a benchmark of the finest hand worked, patterned and plain fabrics. If their market
outreach is strengthened the entire chain could be made viable & sustainable in the long run.
In the present context, if those areas that still retain hand spinning capabilities on the desi traditional charkha, combined with handloom weaving techniques that are not economically viable on machines were encouraged. India could perhaps be the only country in the world with this unique resource for a national & international market.