Updated: May 28, 2021
Korvai – with characteristic slightly uneven line between black body of the
This sari original hand Interlocking stitching work kanchipruam sample images
The Korvai of the Kanchipuram saree
And here is a presumption; when the need to use silk borders and pallu arose, there had to be a way in which weavers culd weave them together on one loom without one yarn mixing with the other. Thus was born the korvai technique. Korvai means “joining”, “linking”, So the silk and the cotton had to be linked, joined. This famous interlocking of cotton yarn body and a silk yarn border, was maintained even when they came to be weaving in silk only.
In normal weaving, the weft (Width-wise yarn) is a continious thread going back and forth across the warp, turning at and forming the selvedge. In the Korvai technique this is not so. In a double bordere saree,ther are technically three wafts; one across one border, another over the body and a third over the other border. In a single bordered saree, two wefts, one over the border and one over the body.
This necessitated the use of three shuttles(or two) and two, or even three, weavers. The warp was laid with one colour for the body in the center with a contrast coloured border-warp on either side. The weft yarn for the bodya was carried in one shuttle, and two shuttles on either end carried the weft yarn for the borders.
The sarees are woven using the throw shutlle loom. So one weaver, for the body and one border, sat in the centre, and the other weaver, for the other border.sat on one end. As the body shuttle reached the border, it is interlocked with the border yarn, and the border yarn completes that line of weave while the body shuttle is thrown back to do the same with the opposite border. This interlocking is called the Korvai. Many think that the border are “woven separately, and then joined to the body”! They are interlocked in a most labour-intesive way-not joined
Korvai-with charactersitic slightly uneven lin between pink body of the saree and the black border
Close-up of kanchi korvai-interlocking the yellow checked body with the way border, showing the staggered interlocking technique(looking as if it has been stitched)
Detail of Korvai interlocking with mokku(triangular desing sometimes called a reku when larger)Shows the demanding technique executed well.
But one can be forgiven for thinking so - many think the border is actually woven separately and stitched on the body! At the line of interlocking, there is a slightly uneven line which looks suspiciously like had stitching. And this is because the interlocking has to be staggered. If it was online, the border will just rip apart from the body with wear! So the staggered interlocking is fundamental to the strength of the Korvai.
In the next picture, the heddles form the shed of the border for the shuttle carrying the pink yarn of the border(left hand of the weaver) to return the selvedge. Then they will form the shed of body yarnfor the green yarn(right hand of the weaver)to be thrown to the other side, to be interlocked with the other pink border by the second weaver, In a simple Kottadi such as this one, two weavers cando the double korvai sarees, If the patterning was elaborate with jari buta-butis on body and rich brocaded borders,it sometimes rquired tjree weavers, making it extremely costly in labour, With new looms and jacquard cards, even these are being attempted by two weavers to keep costs down.
The korvai demands care in laying the warp. The body warp yarn can be 3 ply(murukku,twisted yarn). The border warp yarn has to be heavier,4 ply at least to take the stress of the interlocking. For the same reason at least 10 to 15 guligai(two yarns but counted as 1 yarn or 1 guligai) of the body warp yarn closest to the border has to be of the same strength, 4 ply or more. Where this is not taken care of,the border cannot take the stress of wear and tear and often will just split away from the body. The pride of the kanchipuram korvai is to ensure that the interlocking holds for the life of the saree.
The korvai technique: right hand holds shuttle with body yarn, left had holds green yarn of body, The second weaver will be on the other end to interlock the border with the body yarn.
Diagram of the korvai: The staggered interlocking of the korvai technique. The body yarn interlocks with the green border yarn. The arrows show the path of the red body weft shuttle. The green border shuttle repeats the return to the selvedge (and forming it) after turning back to interlock with red yarn again. The green border warp yarn and about 10 to 15 red body warp yarn(10-15 guligai)have to be almost the same thickness to take the stress and strain of the korvai interlocking.