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Ancient loin loom from Northeast gets global recognition

YarnsandFibers News Bureau 2015-11-02 13:00:00 – Nagaland

Young Arunachali designer Yana Ngoba by showcasing his collection of dresses, gowns and jacket woven on a loin or back strap loom – a domestic fixture for a majority of tribes at the London Fashion Week in September has taken the ancient loin loom of northeast at the global level.

The clothes were an instant hit with buyers from the UK and Nigeria who were surprised to know that there was more to Indian fashion than the sari and lehenga. The loin loom -about as wide as a desktop keyboard -is attached to the body of the weaver with a back strap (hence the name).

The Northeast’s distinctive red or striped fabric has, for centuries, been fashioned into sarongs and shawls is woven on a loin loom. The weaver, mostly female, sits on the floor, legs stretched and feet propped against a block of stone or wood. The back strap creates resistance which enables the weaver to tighten and loosen the yarn as required. It’s a slow and tedious way of weaving and one cannot weave long at one go.

Ngoba, who has two to three weavers working simultaneously on a single piece to speed up production said that weaving one line of motifs can take up to three days,

Since the width of the fabric is so narrow, two to three lengths are stitched together to make tops, skirts, cushion covers, bags, etc. The tight weave of the loom makes the fabric ideal for winter wear. The softness of the fabric is another feature that makes it desirable.

Staff at Delhi’s Nagaland emporium, that is well-stocked with bags, shawls waistcoats and skirts made on the loom (with an actual loom on display) said that the fabric only gets softer with every wash and the natural vegetable dyes don’t bleed. Jesmina Zeliang, who has been selling loin loom furnishing under the brand Heirloom Naga for around two decades, said that the Westerners value this art more and are willing to pay extra for it. She has been supplying to international brands like Crate & Barrel, Roost and Anthropologie. A single cushion cover sells for $150. In India, she sells her products on Jaypore.com, an e-retailer specializing in handlooms.

However, the traditional loin loom weavers are moving towards other jobs that offer better pay. There was a time when every woman in Arunachal, Nagaland and other northeastern states knew how to work it. But with fast fashion cycles, weavers are abandoning the loin loom, said Ngoba.

Loin loom fabric is worn on special occasions like the birth of a child or on a wedding day.

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