Water Hyacinth Weaving
The water hyacinth is a species that grows all over the Northeast and is woven into a wide array of products, from bags to yoga mats. The craft of water hyacinth weaving is providing a source of revenue to over 3,500 artisans in the region, also spreading its wings to other branches of India. Over time, not just people from the states of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh (Pilibhit), Telangana (Hyderabad), and Tamil Nadu (Chennai), but aficionados from other countries like Nigeria, and Sudan have also come to learn the craft.
Barnali Gogoi, a maker and exporter of water hyacinth products, explains the process. The raw substance is geared up by sun-drying its stems, and stems of 24-30 inches are preferably chosen. They are sun-dried for seven to eight days and then compressed to arrange them for weaving. For non-framed yields like bags, the stems are braided and stitched up to give the preferred shapes. For framed products like furniture, bamboo, and cane frames are used. These are then even woven in looms to make products like yoga mats.
Gogoi adds that for colouring, organic dyes are favoured. Colours, mostly brought from Bangkok, are mixed in hot water and salt. Equipped stems are then boiled in the colour and dried for everlasting colouring. For a lustrous look, the products are polished with melamine. Finally, they are smoked to protect them from insects, and fungus.