Muslin is Mathematics

weaving the worlds finest fabric in West Bengal, India

visiting a master weaver in kalna, west bengal, india

Young Rajib Debnath , son of Master Weaver Jyotish Debnath, passed a two metre long scarf  through a tiny ring to show us how fine a garment they had woven, following 300 year old techniques, without the assistance of any modern technology. Completely handspun and handwoven from start to finish. 

The fabric was the exquisite Jamdani Muslin, one of the finest textiles known to man, once produced exclusively by weavers in Bengal for the Mughal emperors of India. The unassuming 5th generation master Jyotish Debnath, who sat with us in his simple office cum showroom, is considered its finest exponent. He gleefully demonstrated his antique charkha as his wife treated us to sweets and fruits and his son Rajib demonstrated the fabric. 

WHITE ON WHITE: Floral  Jamdani  motifs being woven on fine  muslin

WHITE ON WHITE: Floral Jamdani motifs being woven on fine muslin

The only one in the whole world

" Muslin is mathematics " Rajib said, while describing the complex calculations needed to weave this 600 count gossamer-thin, butter-soft fabric - the only piece in the world according to him . Incorporating Jamdani motifs on fine muslin requires mathematical precision and planning , and even one simple error can lead to the whole month-long process being rendered useless. Priceless white-on-white Jamdani muslin sarees can take up to a year to produce and is handmade by weavers with great skill. 

Handcrafts like this, while challenged by a dwindling artisan population and the twin threats of power looms and synthetic fibres, are being kept alive by passionate sixth/seventh generation weavers in India and committed support organisations , fuelled in recent years by intervention from contemporary designers and an increasingly sensitive and enlightened clientele. Gormei INDIA CRAFT WEEK shines a spotlight on the revival of these crafts. 

For more information: a great piece on this weaver family in Echelon magazine