Ilkal is a small town in Bagalkot district in Karnataka. It was an ancient weaving started in 8th century AD, generally woven by Brahmin communities of Karnataka & Maharashtra.
The entire family was involved in the weaving. Kasuti embroidery was done for the upper class or affluent people of the village.
Tipu Sultan and the British encouraged the growth of silk in the 19th century, thereafter ilkal sarees were woven in both cotton and silk.
A few years ago, as many as 25,000 people in the town toiled on the 5,000 odd handlooms to weave the Ilkal, which was their main source of revenue. These looms are now reduced to around 400 as the earnings from Ilkal weaving no longer suffice to meet a family’s expenses. Several people have migrated to big cities in search of jobs due to the high cost of weaving. Another deterrent is the rising cost of raw material including silk and cotton which has doubled in the last four years forcing them to bid adieu to their ancestral occupation.
The colour change of silk pallu requires a join in the warp. The technique is called “kondi” or locking, The threads are hand tied on end by end – there are 5000 plus ends in the sari. Someone experienced can tie these in 2 hours. Imagine 5000 knots!
They dip their fingers in ash water as it helps bind and compress the threads as they are twisted together.
Main body designs are stripes, rectangles or squares, plain or checks, in cotton warp and silk weft weaving.
Border colour is usually red or maroon.
Commonly done is the gomi border which is an arrow shaped pattern.
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