Wheels of thread- Puan weaving of Mizoram.

This blog post is dedicated to my team Surya, Diksha, Aman, Garima, Mannar for memories dearly cherished, during our stay in Aizawl and Thenzawl. To my family back in Aizawl, I cannot thank you enough for making us feel at home and offering support during our little venture. There was no way that we could have handled much of all that by ourselves.

Early June, 2015. We started our journey from Shillong to Aizawl. We were lucky enough to have been guided by my grandfather’s family as soon as we had reached Mizoram. Our ultimate destination was a remote and quiet village called Thenzawl, 43 km down south; away from the bustling town of Aizawl. The purpose of the journey to Mizoram was to document handloom clusters/traditional techniques and after much research, Thenzawl seemed to be an important centre for traditional Mizo Puan weaving. We were certain that much of what we were looking for, would be found within this fascinating little village. 

A group of youngsters, barely 19 and the only housing available at the time; anywhere near Thenzawl was a Tourist lodge located at Lunglei Rd. The Lodge was situated in the middle of nowhere, literally surrounded by greenery, a dense forest just behind and little network connection if you were lucky. We were frequented with visits by a colony of big ants, flying cockroaches and even a frog at one point! The calm surrounding and simple lifestyle made the trip an eye opening and truly memorable one.

Source: tourgenie.com

Thenzawl is a hub for puan weaving. We had the opportunity to document the traditional art through Handloom and Handicraft Cooperative Society Ltd. The Chairman of the society Mrs. B. Zahmingliani guided us through the complete weaving process.


The weaving cluster in Thenzawl started in 1984 and women are the sole weavers while men help in setting up the warp yarns on the loom. Previously, when there were no frame looms available, weaving was practiced in loin looms. Farming, stitching and dyeing is also practiced here but weaving is the main occupation. Cotton yarns have been replaced by acrylic since 1992. The yarns are not dyed. Colored acrylic yarns are sourced from Aizawl. Only black colour is dyed often. A Puan is a traditional rectangular cloth which is worn by men and women as a wrap around skirt. Earlier it was woven in two parts on the loin loom and then stitched. Now it is woven as a complete single width fabric. The weaving is solely done by the women in their houses or under trainings.



The Warp beam roller is situated at the back of the loom. In this, the warp ends are wound in a parallel manner and ready to be woven.


The heddle is a part of the loom which is used to pass the warp yarns through it. It helps to separate the warp threads. Each heddle has an eye in the centre where the warp yarn is passed through. The loom has about 600 heddles.


The harness is the part of the loom that holds the heddles. It comprises of a shaft on which multiple heddles are attached. The warp Yarns are raised and depressed alternatively for the passage of the shuttle.


A reed is an essential part of the loom as it is used to push the Weft Yarn securely to the right place and separates the yarns, keeping them untangled. a reed resembles a comb and has multiple vertical slits. 


A shuttle is a tool which securely stores the weft yarn for weaving. A shuttle, as the name suggest is thrown back and forth between the warp yarns to create the woven fabric.

Process of weaving (Simplified)

The process of puan weaving includes weaving with extra weft technique in order to achieve intricate motifs.

1. Bobbin winding

Bobbin winding is the first foremost step of the weaving process. The weavers wind 'La' (threads) onto bobbins using the spinning wheel or charkha. Bobbins are spun manually. The weavers wind the bobbins for two purposes. One is for weaving the weft and the other for the warp.

2. Warping

Warping is the parallel winding of yarn from the bobbins (spools of yarn) on to a warp beam

3. Drafting

Drafting is the process of passing the warp yarns through the harness which is a frame that holds many thin vertical wires called Heddle, each with a hole in the middle called Heddle eye. Each warp yarn is passed through the heddle eye and hence controlled by the harness. The harness position also determines the weave pattern. The heddles are made with nylon and are sourced from Aizawl.

4. Denting

The spaces between the reeds are called dents and the process of treading the warp yarn through these dents is called denting. The total number of dents used was around 363.

5. Weaving

The process of interlacing the weft yarns with the warp yarns is called as weaving. The weaving process also includes the following steps: 

1-Warp Let Off 

2- Shedding 

3- Filling Insertion 

4- Beat up 

5- Fabric Take Up 

Source: thenortheastwindow.com


It is the mechanism of releasing the warp yarns from the warp beam so that the warp yarns can be woven into a fabric. 


Shedding is the process of moving some warp yarns down and some of them up to make an angled opening for the filling weft yarn to be inserted through. The opening made is called as a 'Shed'. Through this shed, the shuttle containing the weft yarn is passed through to get the desired pattern.


The weft yarn is known as the filling Yarn and the process of inserting the filling yarn through the shed is known as filling Insertion or picking. The weft yarn is inserted in the shed by a shuttle to create traditional intricate patterns. 


The woven fabric produced by repetition of the above process is slowly wound up as a roll located at the front of the loom. This process is known as Fabric Take up. After the desired length is achieved, the ends of the woven fabric are finished. 


Popular Posts