Once the saree design is satisfactory, it gets punched into a series of cards that are used in the jacquard loom (a power loom). Each line of the weft design gets put on one card. A series of cards, connected to each other by thread goes through the loom as the weaver pedals. A jacquard loom is a power loom.
A handloom is called “adai” in these parts. Adai weaving is different from jacquard weaving. V. Palanivelu, a master weaver, explains how. “A jacquard design is similar to painting within set borders. Adai weaving is more free and expansive, because there is not strict and set border within which you have to create.” In adai weaving, for example, you can make the size of the parrot bigger or smaller if you have to fit it into a border. It is like free-hand drawing in a sense. Watch a Kanchipuram weaver talk about this here. The video is in Tamil though…
Weavers may prefer adai, but the technique is waning these days. It is hard to find craftsmen who can do adai, says Krishnamoorthy.