Chanderi fabrics are known for their sheer texture, light weight and a glossy transparency that sets them apart from textiles produced in factories. Traditionally, the fabric was woven using very fine hand spun yarn, which accounted for its delicate texture. Soft pastel shades characterize most Chanderi saris.
Most Chanderi saris display a remarkably subtle balance between the colours used on the body, and those on the borders. However, timeless combinations of bright colour borders on an off white base, or red on black, also exist. Interestingly, colour was introduced to Chanderi saris only fifty years ago. Until then, all Chanderi saris were woven in the natural white of cotton, and were then washed in saffron to give them their characteristic golden hue and fragrance.
Some weavers also used natural dyes made from flowers, but usually on the woven product, not yarn. Today, Chanderi weavers prefer fast-acting chemical dyes. Traditionally, the quality of the gold thread used distinguished Chanderi saris from cheaper imitations. Most Chanderis have a rich gold border and two lines of gold on the pallu.
Some have gold checks or little motifs (known as Butis) all over. Two unique methods are used to embellish Chanderi weaves – Minakari (inlay in the motifs) and Addedar Patela (jeweled cutwork). Chanderi motifs are usually drawn from the earth and sky. Swans (hamsa), gold coins (asharfi), trees, fruits, flowers and heavenly bodies, all found their way into the idiom of motifs in Chanderi.