If ever there is an art of spinning, weaving, dyeing and finally draping in pure silk that has an envious history and track record - it is none but Patan Patola. Patan is a situated 127 Kms North of Ahmedabad in the Indian State of Gujarat. Inheriting a rich cultural heritage, Patan became famous due to its Patolas (double ikat) or normally a sacred silk cloth which took to different forms over time. Since its creation and advent more than 700 years back, Patan Patolas today take form in the shape of handmade saris draped by women and also handwoven into stole, scarf, or a handkerchief too – but a costly one at that! Most important process involved is that of tie and dye using natural dyes like catechu, cochineal, indigo, turmeric, Natural Lakh, Harde, madder roots, manjistha, ratnajyot, katha, kesudo, pomegranate skin, henna, marigold flower, etc to display vibrant colours in the silk sari or fabric. Alum, copper sulphate, ferrous sulphate, tin chloride, potassium dichromate and other mordents are also used in the tedious dyeing process. Another feature that distinguishes hand dyed Patolas from other textiles is that the silk fabric will wear out or tear but will fade in its colour or design. Today, extensive use of eco-friendly dyes has accorded Patan Patolas their eco-friendly status.
All this comes to actually the method of hand weaving that originates from Ikat or a method weaving that uses a resist dyeing process similar to tie-dye on either the warp or weft silk fibres. But, in Patan Patola double ikat process involving resist dyeing similar to tie-dye method on both warp as well as weft silk fibres, is employed making the entire process backbreaking, yet ultimately pleasing the eyes of the beholder and a prized possession, that too for the owner! The art of hand weaving Patan Patolas is so taxing and complicated that four or five of a family of artisans labour and toil for more than 5-6 months to bring out a unique creation in silk depending upon the intricacies. Both sides of the Patola have the same look and feel which is indeed unique for any textiles. Designs using vegetable dyes play an important part in the creation of a Patan Patola silk sari or a roomal (handkerchief), scarf or a stole. One can see visually enchanting traditional designs like geometrical figurines juxtaposed against plants, birds and animals etc. Traditional designs bear names like chowkadi (square), chhabdi (basket), chokta (box), laheriya (strips), narikunjer, navratna, paan (leaf), phulwadi (floral), panchphul (five flowers) and sarvariya; these patterns don most of the creations.