In Rami reddy Palem around 20 families are into making wooden reeds, to complete a single reed in a day, a minimum of 3 people are involved. Men and women equally contribute to making of reed. Reed is locally called as Panni in Telugu, reed being an important part of the loom, people are unaware about the difficulties involved in making a reed. Handloom weaving is a well-known craft, whereas reed makers and their whereabouts are anonymous to many craftsmen.
Reeds are made from the stem of jowar plant (Sorghum genus) which is available in Pondicherry currently. Craftsmen purchases the particular material on a yearly basis which costs around 50,000 rupees approximately for a family consisting of 4 members, number of reeds are dependent also on the family, so the materials purchased in a family of 2 is around 30,000 only for jowar plant.
Jowar stem cut into small pieces, and then a customized tool locally called (Gutam) it acts like a stand with a knife (Hine cheve katti) resembles a sickle shape which is fixed firmly. Craftsmen holds the stem at one end then scrapes the excess part, he continues the process until a finer quality is achieved. Reeds are then kept on a wooden peg (Tugni) and cut into equal length. A wooden frame is set up, which is approximately 2 feet from the ground is used for weaving the reeds. Bamboo stick is cut into required shape and then scraped, craftsmen bits the bamboo stick and repeats until the stick is in a straight position. Two bamboo sticks are aligned on the wooden frame with 4 inch in difference before the weaving of reeds starts. A wooden block is kept in between the two bamboo sticks. The top stick is marked equally to one and quarter inch till the end. One and quarter inch is one bit where 60 sticks are stitched. Craftsmen starts knotting each strip on the top and bottom, with two different bundles of cotton thread. Cotton thread no 20 is used in weaving reeds. The total length of a reed is 51 inch consisting of 40 bits together 2400 jowar stem is used in a single reed. Craftsmen uses a unique marking system where he uses the 60th stick as the colored one for marking and precision. The color green is used is locally available in the market, it is boiled and mixed with salt making sure that the color doesn’t stick to the fabric when it is on the loom. Climatic conditions matter a lot as rain water are not suitable for weaving reeds, a drop of rain water can make the stem non usable. Weaving of reeds is done in great speed and accuracy making sure that 60 sticks are in one bit, the synchronization of body and mind can be seen while weaving reeds. A knife is used to scrape out any rough textures on the reed. The upper part of the stick, which lies above the bamboo stick, is then stuck using adhesive. A thin sand paper (water sheet) is used to level the stems and smoothen it.
A different kind of reed is used for a silk saree, the basic procedure is the same, however starting and ending bit consists of only 30 sticks for the border and the remaining reeds consists of 60 stick, during the time of weaving of a silk saree the force applied on the end of the reed is more compared to a normal saree
1 reed = 40 Bits
1 Bit = 1.25 inch
1 bit which is 1.25 inch consists of 60 sticks
For silk sarees
First and the last bit is 30 sticks
One Reed = 51 Inch Length, 4 inch width.