Handloom weaving have always been an integral part of the Mizo life and it offers a rich and varied ethnic range of intricately woven handloom products. They have a wealth of motifs and the traditional designs are now being combined in new styles. The women are the sole weavers in Mizoram. In earlier times, every Mizo girl was expected to know the art of weaving, which met the practical needs of not only herself, but those of her family as well. Their craft shows them as being a self reliant, sensitive and skilled.
Puans, which simply means cloth in the native language, is a drape and uncut rectangular cotton cloth with well crafted edges and prominent horizontal borders, was the main traditional costume of the native people of Mizoram. It has always played a central role in the social fabric of the Mizos, and has played a crucial role in the performance of rites, rituals and other special occasions like births, deaths, and weddings. There are many kinds of Puans that is worn by both men and women and each colour, motif and design has a traditional and cultural significance to the Mizos.
The weaving is done by women on the loin loom. The loin loom is very versatile in the sense that it supports a range of possibilities that can be woven. The weaving in the loin loom is done in two parts, and the fabric is later stitched together. The beautiful and intricate designs that Mizo women weave on their loin-looms are now being used in shawls and shoulder bags. While loin loom was used traditionally, now frame looms, zo looms and fly shuttles are used to weave the puan. The fly shuttle loom was introduced to produce better fabrics for high-ranking members of the society. This complex loom helps the weaver in producing longer lengths of cloth of uniform quality. Various parts of the loom are composed of the treadle, reeds, bamboo strips and wooden rods. Originally, two or more treadles were made for the insertion of the weaver’s feet. Later these were replaced by wooden mechanisms, to be pressed down with the feet. Pressing one treadle pulls up the other and vice-versa, thus making the shed. Traditional puans and their variations are produced on frame looms and zo (looms of Burmese origin) multi-treadle looms. The weavers use the extra weft technique to produce patterns in relief. Brightly coloured, handspun cotton puans have bold stripes due to a warp faced plain weave structure. They are worn during special occasions, marriages, and festivities and as daily wear.
In early days the yarn for weaving was cotton but now it has been slowly replaced by acrylic yarn for its durability and attractive finish. The chief problem of Mizo weavers is the high price at which they get dyed yarn. The weavers work at the loom in their leisure time and during the lean agricultural months.