Buying Guide for Handwoven Banarasi Sarees: 4 Questions to make informed purchases.

by Kunal Maurya on Jun 18, 2023

Buying Guide for Handwoven Banarasi Sarees: 4 Questions to make informed purchases.

The Handloom Sector has been largely invaded by the machine produced variants. With imitations being available at throw away prices, bearing little distinction to the authentic products and inadequate education on crafts and textiles leaves the artisan and consumer with the most contentious of questions, “ Why is it so expensive if it doesn’t look any different?”

This blog attempts to reframe your questions and thus answer your concerns regarding the prices of handloom products, their value and the subsequent worth for money that you get with every purchase. 

Question 1: How can I determine if the saree is authentic or artificial?

To identify the authenticity of a Banarasi saree, you can conduct a burn test. Take a single thread from the fabric and burn it. If the thread leaves a plastic-like residue, it is likely made of polyester. However, if the thread vanishes entirely without leaving a trace, it is a testament to the purity of silk. Cotton threads emit a woody or paper-like smell and leave behind a fine grey ash.


Video Description: Conducting a burn test on different fabrics.


Question 2: What are the credentials of the fabric?

Look for government or non-government tags such as the Geographical Indication, Handloom mark, Woolmark, Silkmark, Seal of Cotton, and Craftmark. These markers authenticate the handloom, wool, silk, cotton, and handicraft industries respectively. Additionally, buying from organizations that follow Fair Trade norms is a good practice to ensure the credibility of the product.



Question 3: How can I visually spot a handloom fabric?

1. Irregularities: Handloom weaves, though meticulous, are not always even. In fact, that is one of the classic features of handloom; the diminutive difference between each thread.

Handloom designs can get tremendously intricate. Artisans work arduously to weave minute details in their tapestries, a feat that machinery cannot parallel. Handloom saris are inspired by Mughal designs, and feature handmade patterns like amru, ambi and domak. Saris made in factories cannot match this level of detailing and do not carry these traditional Persian motifs.

Similarly, knots and thread pulls near the border are a commonality in handwoven sarees. Pinholes along the selvedge and a slight unevenness of the edges are also evidence of a fabric of handloom origin. Also, handloom sarees have loose threads left at the end of the pallu which are later tied up into beautiful tassels.

Weaves: Certain weaving techniques cannot be imitated on a powerloom. For example, kadhua weaving can only be done on a handloom. The khadua weaving technique is one where each motif is woven separately and no floats appear.

Reverse side of the fabric: The reverse side is a replica in a handloom whereas in a power-loom a lot of loose threads or floats will be hanging as it's not possible to weave them in.

Question 4: How can I inspect the tactile quality of the fabric?


1. Drape: Pure silk gives a very flattering drape like no other fabric can.

2. Feel: Pure silk feels warm when you rub the fabric against your hands. This warmth is not felt when you rub art silk.

3. Breathable: Due to loose weaving of handlooms, they breathe, allowing air to pass through whereas in power-looms you experience a feeling of blockage.

Further, handloom sarees are soft in texture and more resilient whereas a power-loom saree will be stiff and hard in feel due to compact weaving and even spreading of the weft.

4. Weight: Power-loom exerts more pressure which thins the fabric and thus a handloom saree with same raw material used, will weigh heavier & will have more body. When you hold a saree, you can feel the body strength.


5. Creasing: Due to uneven weft weaving of a handloom, they have better recovery from creases or wrinkles as compared to power-looms.



Ultimately, know about the craft; the more you are well-informed, less are the chances of brands mis-selling a product to you in the name of handloom.

We hope you take away a nuanced understanding of textiles, fabrics and real time knowledge that can aid you with meaningful decision making. 


Please drop your feedback and suggestions in the comments section below!



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