The process of extracting, usage and making products out of palm fiber varies throughout the various regions in India, in few areas, the whole leaf is used as shelter and making a natural raincoat, in few places it is used as an inscription, more like a substitute for paper by drying it, to depict mythological scenes and written inscriptions, in few places leaf to leaf weaving is used to make baskets and mats.
The palm leafs are exported here from various regions of Kerala and Tamil nadu, where these are extracted traditionally keeping them in running water for around thirty to forty days continuously. These are tied in bundle, so that it does not fall loose and flows into the running water. In this process, the thin and degradable leafs flesh is washed off giving out just the fiber strand, which is then extracted back and is beaten on rocks, to get rid of remaining leaf flesh, once the fiber is extracted the bundle is opened and damaged strands are separated, the worker also makes sure to segregate the one which will be fit for dyeing and pieces which requires dyeing. Once this is done, these are packed in bundles and are sent to the artisan’s group, where they further process it. Artisan selects the bundle which are to be dyed, and further it is put into a big steel or aluminum container which is heated on a wood fire water, palm fiber, salt and chemical dye is added to the container, and is heated till a specific temperature, till the fiber strand absorbs the dye color. Once the fiber strands attain a particular tone, it is taken out from the water and is kept to dry naturally under the sun. When the fiber strand are ready to be weaved the combination of dyed and natural tones are mixed matched to each other, to create intrinsic patterns and to give an earthy feel to overall composition of the product. There are two types of looms which are used here to weave together these fiber strands, one being the basic handloom, which is developed here to suit the fiber weaving, hence the locals named the loom as “Vimala Loom” the other one started very recently, to ease the artisan to work on much smaller length of mat, and is known as “Frame loom”. Regardless of the making process, the mats in the end of production looks perfectly beautiful and one of its kind.
In weaving, the vertical cotton threads are tied to the frame loom and weaving is started by inserting one end of the fiber strand to a wooden needle, which is inserted into alternate cotton threads and is pulled out from another end, the fiber strand takes the place of wooden needle, this process is repeated through the end of frame. Artisan also makes sure to make a pattern my alternating colors to give a rich and vivid contrast and appeal to the overall mat. Once the mat is completed, it is taken out from the loom and both the ends of mats are tied with thread, to make sure the fiber strand does not fall loose. Once this is done, artisan then cuts it into required dimensions to make products such hand bags, sling purse, wallet, pencil pouch, utility box etc., when artisan makes these products, he/she gives a cloth lining to the interior of it, such that it is flexible and unites the whole structure together.