CRAFT IN THE SPOTLIGHT | Telia Rumal Double Ikat

Tags: fair trade , Ikat , sustainable fashion

We had our first tryst with the Telia Rumal double Ikat weave when we visited Puttapaka village in 2012. The amount of precision and math needed to weave these geometric patterns amazed us.

Origin & History

Telia Rumal literally means ‘Oily Handkerchief’. The craft has its origin in Andhra Pradesh and dates back to early 19th Century. Though it started in Chirala, it’s mostly practised by a few weavers in Puttapaka village of Nalgonda district. The rectangular telia cloths were used as a veil/scarves by women and a multipurpose cloth by men (turban, lungi, shoulder cloth). They were also exported to Asia, Africa and other Gulf countries. We were told that the printed replicas produced by Manchester textiles was the reason behind the decline of this craft. The technique was later adapted to create sarees and dupattas.


Telia Rumal is a very intricate and laborious double ikat weave. As the name suggests the yarn is treated with oil. The products used for the treatment of the yarn are sheep dung, castor pod ashes and oil. The treated yarn which is used for the warp (length) and weft (width) is tied and dyed in accordance with a predetermined geometrical design. Each of the warp and weft threads are individually positioned on the loom prior to weaving hence it’s crucial for the weaver to ensure perfection. Only 3 colors are traditionally used – red black and white in geometrical designs. Weaving a telia rumal needs a great amount of practice and precision for the warp and weft to be meticulously converted to an artistic design. The number of motifs makes it more complex and difficult to weave.


Changes over the years

Due to the laborious process of the oil treatment, it has been done away with. Textile collectors and political leaders still commission the oil treated sarees though and they cost Rs.1.50 lakh upwards. The motifs were originally woven using the double ikat technique. However, to keep traditional craft alive and make it more accessible, the master weavers introduced these motifs in the single ikat technique {weft design}. A combination of vat and naptol dyes are being used to weave sarees, dupattas and yardages. Number of motifs has increased from 2 to 4, 6, 9, 12 and 36 with multiple color ways. Weavers from other villages in Nalgonda have also started weaving Telia Rumal motifs. However, since they are not as skilled as the Puttapaka weavers, the motifs appear to be stretched out and blurred at times. Most Telia Rumals are now mercerised. Mercerisation is a finishing technique where the yarn is chemically treated for strength, lustre and better color absorption.

Coming to an important aspect

Whether to call it a Telia Rumal or Double Ikat. Master weavers have distinct views on this. Some of them are of the opinion that since the oil treatment has been done away with the term Telia Rumal should be replaced with double ikat. And some master weavers refer to it as the Telia Rumal, since the traditional motifs are still being woven and using the term has helped popularise the weave.

As a responsible brand that promotes sustainable fashion through fair trade practices, we are doing our bit to create new markets for the Telia Rumal/Double Ikat through contemporary design. Our range of garments and lifestyle accessories  is an endeavour towards preserving traditional craft and  create sustained work oppurtunities for artisan communities in rural India.




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