F- Organic Cotton Farms
This is the story of your organic shirt from Where Does It Come From? The organic cotton bales to make the fabric for your shirt came from organic farms about 650 km. away from Ahmedebad in Gujarat, India – in the Akola region. Many farmers grow organic cotton in their small farms and they are managed and supported by Arvind Agribusiness, a part of one of one the biggest Textile companies in India, Arvind Mills. What started out as a small project now encompasses more than 40,000 acres of farmland working with nearly 6,000 farmers!!
Mayank Baheti, the project Head at their office said, “At Arvind, we have a simple definition of sustainable agriculture – MORE with LESS.
More yield, income, confidence, transparency and traceability; less input cost, fossil energy, capital, and debt. No smokes and mirrors, and no exploitation of labor or the environment.”
Organic cotton farming is the process of growing cotton without the use of synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers. The only additives come in the form of manures, and the soil quality is controlled by crop rotation. The impact on the environment is reduced drastically, producing clean and safe cotton while creating a sustainable cycle. Organic farming is best suited for small and marginal farms.
SOME OF THE PROCESSES USED IN ORGANIC CONTRACT FARMING …….
Buying back the cotton at a fair price
Cotton Selection by Experts
Monitoring end to end processes
Meet a farmer Janardhan Khandare from Akola district
MY LAND IS IMPROVED AND HAS BECOME VERY FERTILE.”
“Earlier I used to practice conventional farming techniques using chemicals. It had very high input costs. Then I have become a part of Arvind Farming initiative with organic farming. I have received lot of benefits. First of all the soil of my farm has improved tremendously and it has become more fertile. My yield has also increased significantly. I have no worries of land and sale of my organic cotton as it is taken care of. The help of expert people very knowledgeable of my land and area help me and support me.”
2 – SPINNING
The organic cotton bales were sent to a sliver making unit where the cotton was further cleaned and combed into long strands several times and slivers were produces for required yarn counts on machines. A Co-operative called Udyog Bharati, based in Saurashtra region in Gujarat, then distributed the slivers to women artisans. Some of them worked at the unit while some took them to their nearby village and spun them into hanks of yarns on hand operated spinning machines called Ambar charkha. Generally spinning in a mill uses 50% of the total energy used in fabric production. These artisan women worked by hand, without using any electricity and creating any carbon footprint!! Isn’t that amazing….
Meet Sarasben, one of the spinners…..
“Many times I sing while working and others join in!!”
“Kem Chho! I’m Sarasben Parmar
and I’m 60 years old. I used to spin when I was a young girl to support my family. When I got married I moved away from here and with the family responsibilities, cattle and bringing up my children, it was hard work. Five years ago we have moved back in this area. I was asked by the co-op if I want to get back to spinning. My children are grown up now and I have time so I am spinning again. Now I spin organic cotton. I like my work and I am very happy that I am given this opportunity. Many times I sing while working and others join in!! I know in my old age, with my money, my husband and I will be looked after. I have no worries…”
3 – WEAVING
After the spun yarns are received and paid for, they were now given to weavers. They have a hand operated and paddle operated looms. First they roll the hanks on a big wheel called a beam. This was then attached to a loom and the weaver makes the cloth by inserting yarns backwards and forwards. Unlike mill fabric this weaving process is also done by skillful hands and no electricity is used.
Meet one of the weavers…
“I am very proud of the fact that my father has no worries of supporting us. We can look after him to get better for us.”
“Namaste! My name is Samata. I am 19 years old. My father is a master weaver and I have seen him weave Khadi and other handloom fabrics from my childhood. I live with my parents and two younger brothers. My older sister is married and lives with her family. Two years ago, all of a sudden my father had chest pain and we took him to the hospital. He had a heart attack!! We were shocked and I could not stop crying for two days. I love him very much. Doctor asked him to take complete rest for at least three months and asked him not to work on the loom for six months. I had learnt little bit of weaving from my father. I decided that I am going to weave. I had just finished school. Since then I have taken up weaving. I do not let my father do the hard work. He helps me a bit and teaches me sometimes I now weave for organic fabric for Gondal’s Udyog Bharti. I earn around 5,000/- rupees
a month. This pays for my brothers’ school fees and other expenses. I am very proud of the fact that my father has no worries of supporting us. We can look after him to get better for us.”
D – DESIGN
Where Does It Come From? worked with Tracey from Splashings of Love to create the designs for these shirts. The shirt design was inspired by a pattern called ‘Elegant Shirt’ by the pattern designer Puperita, who has been extremely supportive throughout the project. Tracey (Splashings of Love) and Jo (Where Does It Come From?) worked together on the basic design concepts for the shirts such as colours and detailing. Splashings of Love creates bespoke garments for children and babies so Tracey is very experienced in knowing which fabrics will work together and the kinds of clothes that children love to wear.
B – BLOCKPRINT
After a long and interesting design development work, MORALFIBRE came up with very attractive, happy and ‘hand-block-printable’ motifs. Also various color options and motif placements were worked out and final selections were made after lots of deliberations at the studio! Once the design and colors were decided they started working on fabrics.
When the fabrics were ready at the co-op, it went for washing and dying. An old, traditional dying unit did the dying. Only Ezo free dyes were used which were low in harmful chemicals.
For block printing, wooden blocks with patterns of a elephants and ants were made by Ramratan. Meet Ramratan, the block maker…..
“Ram ram! I have migrating from Uttar Pradesh in 1985 in search of livelihood. I came to Ahmedabad. I have been working with wood from childhood as that is our family craft.” Sanjay, the designer at MORALFIBRE said, “Ramratan analyzed the ongoing demand of block printed fabrics at that time and decided to translate all his skill of wood carving in block making. He decided to work as a background artist in textile where the hand carved wooden blocks are not seen but the printed designs do!! His career used to flourish in those days.”
After 30 years of textile advancement this hidden artisan’s work was at risk. Ramratan came up with a totally dynamic approach to wood carving. Putting aside his traditional motifs and patterns and with the help of designers, he now carves contemporary blocks such as Ant, Tortoise, Tiger and Elephant!
These blocks are then supplied to the block printer Mr. Jayantibhai.
The shirts were prepared in two stages. They were cut and printed and then they went back to the tailor for final stitching.
Jayantibhai is a block printer and also a traditional Kalamkari painter.
He works with his son Kirit who is a graduate and helps his father in his work.
You can see them block printing ants and elephants on cut pieces of the shirts.
Printing was done in two stamps for elephants and one stamp for ants.
For the elephant the black outline is printed and then the grey colour is stamped right on top.
T – TAILOR
Rajubhai, the master tailor, has stitched your shirt. He has spent half his life in learning and mastering pattern making and stitching – today he is known as a master karigar (Artisan). This has been his family’s profession for many generations. With his wife and two children he lives in one room and tailoring is the only source of income for his family. His wife and a daughter assist him in buttoning and pressing the garments and other related chores.
“I enjoyed making these happy shirts!”
These shirts have passed through special process of printing after the pattern cutting on the fabric is done. Once Rajubhai has cut the shirts, the right front, left sleeve along with the shoulder is bundled as per the sizes and transported to the printing unit. Here Jayantibhai, the block printer printed the bundles of cut pieces and they were returned to Rajubhai. He then stitched the full shirt, made buttonholes and stitched buttons. Then he finished and pressed the shirt for the fresh and ready for you to wear!
W – WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?
Hi I’m Jo, the founder of Where Does It Come From? – the clothing business that brings you ethical and traceable clothes. Currently based in Ipswich, Suffolk (UK) we work closely with socially focussed production partners. Together we create and develop the designs and produce beautiful clothes that harness the skills of the local artisans. We work as ethically and sustainably as possible to create beautiful basics that you will want to wear again and again. We hope that finding out about how your clothes were made and the people who made them will make you love them just a little bit more…..
From idea to business launch took two years, with launch happening in June 2014. You can read more in our News & Blog section, including newspaper and radio coverage. It’s been wonderful to be acknowledged for our work – 2016 named us as runner up in the ‘Greenest Product’ category at the Suffolk Green Awards as well as being selected as a Green 100 business – the top 100 ethical businesses in East Anglia. More recently we were delighted and honoured when Joanna Lumley wore one of our scarves on her TV documentary ‘Joanna Lumley’s India’.
Thank you so much for buying from us – the more we sell the more difference we can make. We have lots of plans for new designs, new partners and new projects so stick with us and together we can change the world!
If you love your shirt then please leave us a product review by choosing your product at Ethical and Organic Children’s Clothing and filling in a comment. Thank you.