09 January, 2018

Khesh saree

Back in the days, one did not know so many names and varieties of sarees. Sarees were either cotton or silk. Then came Kanjeevaram, Banarasis, Chanderis, maybe Maheshwaris, Tussars. But that was about it. With the advent of online social media and online selling, there is an upsurge of varieties of sarees that one wants to acquire. Sarees are not just cotton anymore. They are jute, linen, Taant, Ajrakhs, Gamcha, Mul Mul, Kerala cotton, etc. 

You might get fascinated with names but for your knowledge, Phulia is named after a village. So a saree which comes from this village are phulia sarees. They can be taant, cotton or khadi. Similarly, Dhonekali is named after its village. All have different weaving pattern. 

I am always fascinated by a splash of colours. Show me a myriad of bright colours and you have my attention. So when I came across this Khesh saree through my trusted online seller, I immediately booked it. Needless to say, I loved it. It is light, soft, colourful, cheerful and drapes very well. 

Some tips for online buying of sarees:
Trust the vendors who display their prices transparently vs the ones who say "direct message for asking the price". The former are clear in their dealings. They are daring to reveal the prices. The later are putting a little pressure on you to enquire and buy. They are acting more pricey. Maybe they are in for negotiations and bargaining. Maybe they are scared of their competitors.
Compare, compare and compare. With online shopping, you have the option of comparing the prices of different vendors or sites.
                                                             Tips for buying directly.
Explore government emporiums. Their prices and products are genuine.
Reach the sources. Buy directly from weavers if possible. Have a motto- Weavers not designers. Handloom, not brands.

Read below more information about weaving Khesh.

                               The tales of Khesh Weaving

Khesh Weaving

The khesh weaving process is simple. The warp is with new yarn and the weft is with strips of thin cloth obtained by tearing old sarees lengthwise.
Because of the tradition of khesh weaving in Birbhum in the last many years, a market for old sarees has come up in Amodpur, where old sarees can be bought in bulk by weavers. Many weavers also have their suppliers who gather them from villages, wash them and sell them ready for tearing. Many other weavers depend on householders to give them sarees which get woven into bedcovers for a fee. The weaver needs six sarees for a single bedcover and ten for a double.
Khesh WeavingThe old sarees have to be of cotton in order that they tear easily. Experiments using synthetic sarees have also been undertaken since the propensity to wear synthetic sarees is on the rise even in villages. But the problem with synthetic sarees is that they cannot be torn by hand and have to be cut by scissors. This increases the time for this process and therefore the cost.
The tearing process which is as labour intensive as weaving is typically done by female members of the weaver’s household. Some shortcuts have been found to make the process less tedious and time-consuming. The saree is first torn into five or six parts lengthwise. One end of each part, say about five inches is then torn into strips. The tearer then picks out alternate strips and holds them together in one hand, and the remaining in the other hand. He then pulls in two opposite directions giving him many strips at one go. Typically a saree yields about seventy five to eighty strips.
Once the old sarees are torn into thin strips, the weaver hangs these strips beside him for easy access and weaves with whichever he picks up randomly. And therein lies the beauty of the khesh fabric, the design person or the weaver can only specify the colour of the warp. The colour of the weft is completely a matter of chance. Only when the fabric is woven can one appreciate how the colours in the old sarees have blended into the new fabric.
The weaving can, of course, be done either intensely with the old sarees or with gaps in between depending on the effect desired.
Traditional Khesh
Many of the traditional weavers in Birbhum who have learnt the craft from their fathers agree on the fact that the technique of weaving with shreds of old sarees, called “khesh”, was started in Shilpa Sadan in the early 1920s. This was the vocational training centre that Rabindranath Tagore had set up in Sriniketan, adjacent to Santiniketan which was where his academic institute, Visva Bharati was set up.
Weaving Yardage: Very soon negotiations began with the weavers, traditionally used to weaving bedcovers to weave yardage. Once yardage was available in a variety of colours, more products like table mats, hot water bottle covers, and jackets were added to the existing cushion covers and bags.
When it the earlier woven khesh got off the loom, it was felt the pallu had become too heavy compared to the rest of the saree. The experiment was repeated with spacing out the old saree lines in the pallu instead of intense weaving for the full one metre of the pallu. And a few stripes of khesh were also added in the body of the saree and the balance was just so.
It was then repeated in many colours and the khesh saree became a fashion statement. Now many weavers sell the saree to mainstream retail outlets both in Birbhum and outside. The khesh weaving cluster around Labhpur in Birbhum has truly benefited from this new usage of an old tradition.
Once the experiment with sarees was successful it was easy to convince weavers to try fabric for pants, salwars, kurtas or shirts.
Addition of Leather


  1. Love this saree. Love the other uses of Khrushchev’s too

  2. Please correct spellings in my previous comment before posting:)