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Handloom Weaving FAQ

What is Handloom Weaving?

Many of the products in the Monkey Mind Store - from toys to bean bags - are manufactured using the ancient technique of handloom weaving. 

Handloom fabric weaving involves non-mechanized textile looms, usually employing highly sophisticated looms made of wood. Traditionally, handloom artisans used natural plant-based dyes and yarn. Our 100% cotton handloom products use yarns dyed using the hank-dying method where color penetration is the best and the yarns retain a softer feel. Handloom weaving is a labor intensive process, often conducted in community or family-based settings. Generally no factories or assembly lines are used in handloom-based manufacturing. 

Handloom weaving is an age-old tradition. Many different cultures around the world have at one time or the other developed their own indigenous handloom weaving tradition. Once the predominant way of manufacturing high quality fabric, in most countries handloom industry is experiencing challenges due to the dominance of commodified mass manufacturing. 

History of Handloom Weaving in Sri Lanka

Handloom weaving has a very long history in Sri Lanka. The ancient chronicle, Mahavamsa, refers to an indigenous fabric weaving tradition that can be dated to at least 540 BCE. Although it has indigenous roots, handloom weaving has been heavily enriched over the centuries by visitors to the island, notably by Indian and Arab migrants.

Handloom textile weaving remains mostly a community-based activity usually taking place in semi-urban regions or villages around the country. 

Traditionally artisans grew their own cotton and spun cotton yarn at home and used predominantly natural dyes extracted from seeds, flowers and roots. 

Contemporary Handloom Weaving in Sri Lanka 

Today the industry employs around 15,000 people, majority of them rural women. Contemporary handloom weavers in Sri Lanka innovate on centuries old traditional motifs, patterns and colors palettes to create a uniquely cosmopolitan aesthetic that has garnered cross-cultural appeal in very diverse global markets such as Europe, Scandinavia, United States, South Korea and Japan to name a few. 

Despite its very long history in Sri Lanka, there is a dearth of published material on the handloom tradition in Sri Lanka, notable exceptions being Ananda Coomaraswamy’s Mediaeval Sinhalese Art (published in 1908) and the more recent contribution (2015) by Chandramani Thenuwara, Handwoven Heritage – Future Foundation.

Why Should We Care About Handloom Weaving?
  1. Handloom textile products endure the test of time. You will enjoy these pieces for decades to come.
  2. Handloom manufacturing is good for the environment. From raw materials to production techniques, the handloom manufacturing process involves an extremely low carbon footprint and a minimal amount of environmental pollution.
  3. Majority of handloom artisans are women; supporting handloom fashion products is a great way to support women’s empowerment.
  4. Due to their incredible aesthetic beauty and wide cross-cultural appeal, handloom products are great way to promote cultural exchange.
  5. By supporting handloom products you help preserve hundreds of years of cultural heritage.