Weaving involves using a tool called a handloom to make fabric by hand. Fabric is woven through the meeting of threads running vertically (“tana” or warp) and hortizontally (“bana” or weft). The warp is essentially the base of the woven fabric. The color, type, texture and weight of the warp significantly defines the look and feel of the final piece. The weft introduces new colors, textures and designs into the woven fabric.
1. Weaving begins when yarn (cotton, wool or silk) is received. Sometimes it needs to be dyed first (depending on the color needed for the tana/warp).
2. It can take up to 1 week to “tana laga”, which is a critical and highly attentive process where the yarn is separated, hung on metal rods and prepared for the hand loom. This step is mostly done by women in the family.
3. Starch is applied to the yarn to make the yarn stronger. The starching process is done out in the open village fields by the entire family from day to night over one day.
4. Next, the yarn is rolled and the “joining” process is then done, whereby the yarn is joined to the handloom in preparation for weaving to begin; this step is mostly done by men.
5. Weaving fabric by hand involves the synchronized interlocking of threads running vertically and horizontally. The weft (horizontal) intersects the warp (vertical) through the passing of a wooden instrument horizontally across in a continuous right to left, left to right movement. Wooden foot pedals help lift and release threads to make the joining of the warp and weft possible. A wooden block is pushed against each row of interlocked thread to keep the woven fabric tightly-knit. Handloom weaving involves focus, patience and physical strength. Typically, in one day, 1 to 1.5 meters of fabric can be woven by hand.
6. After the fabric is woven, finishing touches are added by women, which may entail making tassels at the ends of handwoven scarves or shawls or hand embroidering a piece that is both woven and embroidered. Finally, the completed piece is washed 2-3 times in clean, fresh water, dried and ironed.
Every member of the family plays a role in making a hand woven piece. Women play an integral role in the beginning and end stages and traditionally, men are most often the ones who weave the actual fabric. However, increasingly women are learning to weave and REVIVAL Style is proud to feature fabrics hand woven entirely by women artisans in Kachchh! Several of our women weavers create kala cotton and recycled plastic products.
KALA ORGANIC COTTON WEAVING
Kala is a durable, organic, handwoven cotton that is indigenous to Kachchh (dating back 3,000 years ago). It is one of the purest varieties of cotton made. During the British colonization of India, handmade kala cotton was replaced by machine-made, weak-fiber, genetically modified cotton, called “BT cotton”. Khamir is a local NGO in Kachchh that exists to keep Kachchh’s craft culture alive by providing training, development and market support to local artisans. About 7 years ago, Khamir decided it was time to bring kala cotton back. So, the NGO reached out to 2-3 original kala weavers in Kachchh and partnered with them to teach other local weavers how to make this heritage cotton. Through a combined community effort that involved local farmers, ginners, spinners, weavers, designers and a Gandhian NGO, this local textile was revitalized and brought back to Kachchh 70 years later.
Some interesting facts about kala cotton:
- During cultivation, the kala cotton flower is fully closed in order to adapt to the harsh, dry climate in Kachchh and it doesn’t require irrigation water to grow; it’s an entirely rain-fed crop, which can still produce 60% output during a drought.
- Kala cotton is organic because no water is used (entirely rain-fed) and no pesticides or chemicals are used to grow it.
- After kala is harvested, Khamir buys the kala cotton flower from local Kachchh farmers; Khamir pays farmers a 15% premium over the market price farmers would receive for genetically modified cotton to encourage the farmers to continue cultivating kala cotton.
- Khamir pays women in nearby villages to separate the cotton from the flower, providing a supplemental income source for these women and their families.
- Then the cotton is sent to Khamir’s ginning unit where the seeds in the cotton are removed, without which the cotton cannot be spun. Once removed, the seeds are given back to farmers to re-use for the next season (a neat and environmentally-friendly feedback loop!).
- After ginning, the cotton is spun into thread. However current-day machinery is too fast to spin kala cotton. So, after 2-3 years in search of a solution, Khamir partnered with a Gandhian NGO and together they found a way to spin the cotton into yarn using machines that operate at a slower speed and produce a lower volume. It’s done in a specialized local Kachchh workshop with much care and quality.
- The kala yarn is then provided to local Kachchh weavers who hand weave it into beautiful kala fabrics, like what you see in REVIVAL Style’s collections.
REVIVAL Style loves kala cotton because from a design standpoint, it is pure, durable and it has an old-world, heritage feel to it – a rarity in today’s polyester world. From a social impact standpoint, we love that through kala cotton a local crop that is unique to Kachchh has been revived and created livelihoods for local farmers, ginners, spinners and weavers.
RECYCLED PLASTIC WEAVING
In addition to bringing kala cotton back, the Kachchh NGO, Khamir has partnered with locals to initiate an environmentally and socially conscious project – the recycled plastic weaving project. 100,000 plastic bags are thrown away daily in Bhuj (a small rural town in Kachchh), collecting in the streets and other impromptu dump sites as the town does not have a proper waste management system in place. Khamir addresses this environmental concern by hiring local women to collect, clean, cut and weave the plastic bags into stylish and functional recycled plastic products (as seen with REVIVAL Style’s collection of recycled plastic handbags and notebooks). Through this process, poor women receive an income from their work to better the environment and create well-designed products.
Some interesting facts about the recycled plastic project:
- Each week 15 kg of plastic arrives at Khamir where local village women sort through plastic bags and silver foil to be cleaned and cut into “thread”, which is given to local weavers in nearby villages.
- Every recycled plastic item is individually woven by hand in the villages.
- The artisan weavers are themselves the designers, choosing what colors and combinations of plastic bags and silver foil to combine in their work (amazing).
- 1 handwoven recycled plastic tote (featured in REVIVAL Style's collection) is made from approximately 20 recycled plastic bags. Looking good and doing good has never been so easy!