The Making of Silk: Reeling and Weaving of Silk Explained

Silk Weaving Process

Silk has always been the subject of curiosity, how a mulberry-eating pupa spins a shell? How a cocoon that looks like an egg is built of nature’s most valuable fabric? How it is reeled, weaved, and worn? Basically for a commoner, silk is nature’s wonder fabric.

Silk Reeling Process

Derivation of the Fiber

Cocoons are hard by nature. For it to be spun into the magical thread that makes a silk saree, it needs to be soaked in water conspicuously. Soda is also added to the water to soften them and the thread is separated from the cocoon simultaneously.

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The Process of Silk Reeling

Silk Reeling

The silkworms have 2 glands from which silk is produced which are then adhered together by sericin at the spinneret, constituting the bifilar threat called Bave. Unwinding this Bave is one of the most important parts of the reeling process. It is done traditionally with Charakha or with power-driven automatic or semi-automatic reeling units. In India, less than 1% of silk is reeled using reeling units.

Silk Weaving Process


The generally white silk yarn is bought from reelers and then is dyed. The dye color solution is made by adding the color to a large container with boiling water, the silk yarn is immersed in the solution till the color is absorbed, then it is dried for 2-3 days.

Spinning Process

The silk after dyeing is brought for the spinning process. A bundle of yarn is placed on the spinning wheel. The silk strand is reeled to the spindle and the wheel is operated. The yarn from the big hank or Charka-spinning wheel is transferred into spindles. These spindles are later used to insert into fly-shuttle which is used in the weaving process.

Warping Process

The process of warping is usually done in the streets preferably in early morning to avoid the dyed silk yarn being sun-bleached. Yarn is tied between 2 poles and the warp is then stretched. Entangles and breaks in the thread are checked and then knotted. A cotton thread is laced here so the knots can be easily noticed. When the silk yarn is warped, it is dipped in rice starch solution, this helps in gaining more luster and shine. The yarn is loaded into a warping machine to warp beam. The weaving process is begun by loading warp into the loom. Generally, the length of a warp is 18 meters which are used to make 3 sarees of 6 meters. The number of warp threads ranges between 5000 to 6000. Each thread of warp is 2 ply and weft is 4 ply.

Setting the Loom

Loom setting activity is done before the weaving process. The yarn after warping is prepared into warp sheets by rolling the length of yarn to an iron rod. The process of transferring the warp sheet into a weaver’s beam is called beaming. In this process, the strands of yarn pass through the reeds and healds. This is done by joining each silk strand to the old warp threads manually. It takes nearly 2-3 days to complete the joining process.

A silk-weaving loom of Varanasi, India

Computerized Design Process

Silk is a beautiful blend of tradition and technology. As most of the process explained above is traditional, technology also plays a part in the production of silk sarees. Automated design process has replaced the traditional design process. Image of the motif is first scanned and then it is traced and filled with bitmaps. Then the image is transferred to the punch cards. Now the punch cards are attached in the form of a chain and loaded into the jacquard machine to start weaving.

Weaving Process

Weaving essentially is interlacing the silk threads of weft and warp. Kanchipuram, Banarasi, Chanderi, Maheshwari, Mysore silk sarees, and many others gain their difference in this crucial process. 

Almost finished Kanchipuram Saree

In this blog, We will be giving you a glimpse of Kanchipuram weaving. The specialty of the Kanchipuram silk saree is contrast border with the Korvai technique and contrast pallu with petni technique. 3 shuttles are used to weave contrast borders. 2 shuttles for the side border and one shuttle for the body of the saree. After weaving of body of the saree, a separate warp as that of border color is joined with the ground old warp by weaving both the warp about one inch. Then the ground warp is cut-off and fringes of new and old warp are neatly trimmed. Solid color Pallu is then woven by using single shuttle. Nowadays Kanchipuram silk sarees are woven using two to three jacquards, each one for border, body, and pallu with or without Korvai technique also.

This is the laborious and intricate process of making a Kanchipuram or in general a silk saree. No wonder silk sarees are considered expensive. Yet, so desired lending to their luster, shine, strength, and many other advantages. It takes 4-5 days to make a silk saree. 

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