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Working a split-ply Camel girth thread

The simplest textile in India is found where the camel is the ship of the desert. The camel is essential in the Thar desert of Rajasthan and strong ply-split camel girths are needed for camels to plough, draw well water, pull carts or simply ride through dry sand.

Specially prepared goat hair, or cotton cord, are made into two ply yarn usually black or white, folding it into four and twisting it into a four ply yarn.

There is also a method a twisting of half black half white yarn. Two white two-ply thread is twisted with two two-ply black into a tight   four ply. Yarns are soaked in water then sun dried to un-kink, open and thicken the yarn, setting the overtwist.

Once dried they can be slipped into a spindle.

John Gillow in his masterful Indian Textiles (p 83, 84), describes Ishwar Singh Bhatti of Jaisalmar binding 52 strands, who claimed any more is too difficult to work with.

He splits open the chord with the eye end of large wooden needle, pulled back a quarter turn and the next thread is threaded through the eye and pulled back through the first strand. The process continues down the row with each chord reaching accross the fabric in a diagonal course ending at the selvedge.

Whether a chord splits or is split by an opposite diagonal decides the pattern.

The technique uses four basic patterns  either monochrome (usually black) black and white diagonal checks. The half while half black four ply yarn can be used to make intriguing designs, where the chord is untwisted in the chord splitting  process, so that two plys of the same colour are on the surface. A diagonally interlaced layer of one colour on top of another coloured diagonally interlaced beneath.

Then the twist can be restored to the chord and the colours counter changed and free floating layers  linked together.

split-ply Camel girth thread

split-ply Camel girth thread

Reference: Thanks should be given to John Gillow for his valuable detailing the split-ply process in Indian Textiles, 2008 Thames & Hudson, London.