Weaving is an ancient craft of the tribal of Meghalaya. It has a rich variety of hand-woven textiles, with unique characteristics that reflect the state and its skilled artisans. The state produces three varieties of silk – Eri (locally known as ryndia from the castor plants the silkworms feed on), Muga and Mulberry. Weaving specimens from the various districts of Meghalaya comprise a wide range and number which themselves as pieces of the precious treasures showing in respect of designing and processing, an accomplishment of great measure.
Spinning and weaving in Meghalaya is the exclusive monopoly of women. Weaving is a full time job for the women particularly; Garo women in Meghalaya. Eri-culture and weaving are also important activities for generating supplementary income and providing a much needed opportunity for women to contribute further to the family, especially for the elderly and the young mothers who are not able to go out to the fields. This traditional knowledge is passed down through generations.
The loom is simple back strap one with a continuous horizontal warp consisting of six sticks serving the function of warp beam, lease rod, heald stick, beating sword and extra warp beam. The loom and its components are hand-made by the village women themselves. The heddles are made from string, tied on manually every time a new warp is put on the loom. The floor loom produces one scarf per warp, whereas the frame loom offers possibilities of increased production.
The distinctive costumes and apparels comprise wrappers and shawls, waistcloths and bodice, girdles, scarfs, skirts, aprons and lungis resplendent with skilful colour combination in their own fashion and style. The patterns in cloth are obtained by the necessary combination of different coloured threads in the warp and weft. The embroidery is traditionally done on a handspun and handwoven eri silk shawl, creating the pattern by counting the warp threads. This embroidery technique is an expression of local cultural identity, and an important physical illustration of historic trading routes in the state of Meghalaya.