‘New Muslin’ Textiles

Muslin was woven from the yarn of the phuti karpas, a cotton plant that grew and flourished in a limited area within a microclimate on the banks of the rivers Meghna and Sitalakkhya in Bangladesh.  Agronomists believe that amongst the two types of cotton plants, i.e. wild and cultivated, it was the latter.  Since cultivated plants tend to lose their characteristics without regular planting, over the past 190 years the phuti karpas is likely to have altered drastically in the wild.  Some forms may exist in small landholdings where farmers are likely to be unaware of the plant’s unique history. Cotton from the phuti karpas was hand spun into very high-count yarn, exceeding 300, possibly up to 1000.  Although such high-count yarn is extremely challenging for current weavers to convert into cloth on the loom, the Bengal Muslin team has succeeded!

Our efforts have focussed on finding different varieties of cotton plants, and during the first trial a 70% match with the original phuti karpas’s DNA was found.  Though we have tried spinning centres in Chandina and Noakhali (in Bangladesh) it’s not easy for the current generation of spinners to handle this.  India, however, retains some spinners who produce yarn using their cotton.  We have taken their assistance, used their yarn, often mixing with our cotton to produce fine yarn of a high count, ranging from 200 to 500.  These yarns were used by our trained group of weavers to produce ‘new muslin’, a cloth that is of high count cotton, bears the motifs of the past and is the closest replication to the muslin of the Mughals.

In order to manufacture the muslin of the past, age-old technology had to be adapted to current spinning and weaving practices and the Bengal Muslin Team carried out painstaking studies to enable these adjustments.

During the Muslin Festival exhibition (Feb-Mar 2016) jamdani motifs re-created from exceptional designs of the past were woven into 300 count saris and 200 count dresses by master weaver Al-Amin.  Such high counts had never been manufactured in Bangladesh prior to Drik-Bengal Muslin’s project. 

New designs, mostly replicas of age-old ones, are being trialled constantly.  Some ‘modern’ scarves have also been produced. 

The project continues to work with the spinners and weavers, growing and processing the cotton and yarn, attempting to unlock the past secrets and fulfil its goal of inspiring our current generation of weavers to display their skills to a new generation of consumers.