In the days past, the discerning Indian woman was known to wear finely woven, diaphanous silk sarees that, as the legend goes, could be passed through a finger ring.
Expensive sarees had elaborate ornaments or brocades created on the loom. Threads of different colours were woven in patterns to create ornamented borders, elaborate pallus, or small repeated accents in the cloth itself. Sometimes the sarees were further embellished with Resham or Zardozi or precious stones.
Rural and inexpensive cotton sarees were coarsely woven and often decorated with checks or stripes woven into the cloth or, in some parts of the country, decorated with block printing using carved wooden blocks and vegetable dyes, or tie-dyeing.
In the days present, hand-woven, hand-printed sarees are more expensive, since they are not mass produced on mechanical looms, and therefore have a limited market. Also, the numbers of weavers engaged in the age old crafts are dwindling in the face of more lucrative but often mechanical urban jobs. It is essential therefore that we patronise traditional weaving and help keep alive the rich textile tradition that India has.