I – Organic Cotton from India
The organic cotton for your khadi organic bag came from organic farms in the Akola region of India -about 650 km away from Ahmedabad.
Many farmers there grow organic cotton in their small farms and they are managed and supported by Arvind Agribusiness, a part of one of 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 labour 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.
Prashantbhai – A Farmer from Akola district
“PAYMENT IN MY ACCOUNT WITHIN 7 DAYS!”
“I used to follow the conventional practices (using chemicals) of farming cotton for which my expenditure on fertilizer and irrigation were very high. The yield used to be good but input expenses were too high and there were no marketing system in place. Three years ago I started working with Arvind and adopted organic farming practices. Since then my expenditure on fertilizer and irrigation reduced drastically and the yield has improved significantly. I don’t even need to bother about selling the produce because Arvind buys directly from my doorsteps and deposits the money in my account.”
S – Handspun in a Co-operative
The fabric for your bag is called khadi. Khadi is a traditional, ethical fabric widely promoted by Mahatma Gandhi during the Indian Independence though it goes back centuries. Gandhi set up co-operatives to hand spin and hand weave the local cotton into fabric, creating livelihoods for the vulnerable rural workforce, especially women. Khadi is close to nature, using hand power or solar power to run the spinning charkas and weaving looms. It is no coincidence that the Indian flag is made from khadi and features a spinning wheel!
First the organic cotton bales were sent to a sliver making unit where the cotton was further cleaned and combed into long strands. A Khadi co-operative, Udyog Bharati, based in Saurashtra region then distributed them to women artisans. Some of the women worked at the unit while some took them to their nearby village and spun them into hanks of yarns on hand operated Ambar charkha. Extra special care is taken while working with organic cotton. It is worked on in their unit in a designated area. Spinning cotton in a mill uses 50% of the energy required to make fabric – usually in the form of electricity. These artisan women worked by hand, without using any electricity and creating no carbon footprint!!
Geetais spinning on her Ambar charkha with ten spindles. She produces yarns by moving a handle in regular rotation and constantly checking the yarn quality.
One of them told us :“We use Ambar Charkha machines so that we can spin 8 to 12 yarns at a time. It needs skill and I have to be careful that I join the yarns when they break. The joint should be good so that it does not break again later and it should not show when the fabric is woven. ”
I have been spinning for four years now. I have learnt it well and I also teach others! I like my work. The day passes when we have fun competitions…”
When the yarn is spun, after counting, it is tied in a certain way ready for weaving later. Each pack of this counted yarns are called ‘Aanti’.
W – Handwoven in a Co-operative
Each type of cotton growing in the farms has a specific quality that determines the elasticity, strength and thickness of the yarn it can produce.
Preparing the yarn for weaving
To get the yarn ready for weaving the yarns must be counted and the weaving beams hand filled and prepared. The weaving bobbins are also filled. This process takes at least a week. Now it’s time for the weavers to weave the fabric.
Each weaver has a hand operated and paddle operated looms. First they roll the hanks on a big wheel called a beam. This is then attached to a loom and the weaver makes the cloth by inserting yarns backwards and forwards. Unlike mill fabric this weaving process is done by skillful hands and no electricity is used.
Do you know that the thousands of threads that go into making your bag are hand counted and calculated many times by several artisans? This is how fabrics were made for thousands of years.
Let’s meet one of the weavers…..
Foot powered weaving
“Namaste! My name is Gopi Ben. I have been weaving since the past six years. I used to weave checks earlier in plain white. I used to weave from home before. Now my children go to school and I come to weaving centre to do my work. Now I weave organic fabrics. This is not given at home. It has to be worked on in a special area. In total I weave around 5-6 meters of everyday. I enjoy weaving. I help my children in supporting their schooling with the money I earn. Good education is not cheap…. “
‘‘Quality is very important. People can see how good my work is. Also the co-operative pays me well if I produce good quality and if I am regular. I am proud of it.”
M – MORALFIBRE – Our Production Partner
Where Does It Come From? and MORALFIBRE (
www.moralfibre-fabrics.com) have worked very closely together for many years on productions of bags, shirts, scarves and children’s clothing.
Shailini Sheth Amin, founder of MORALFIBRE fabrics
MORALFIBRE fabrics is based in Ahmedabad in Gujarat, India and was set up by Shailini Sheth Amin to promote and source sustainable materials. They work with local co-operatives which provide fairly paid work for thousands of rural artisans in Gujarat.
The sustainability ethos is core to both MORALFIBRE and Where Does It Come From?
1. No electricity is used in fabric making – which makes the fabric virtually carbon neutral.
2. No heavy chemicals used – the fabrics are allergy free.
3. The traditional production technique use much less water (approximately one fifth) than standard mill processes.
4. There is minimal air, water and land pollution and no use of depleting fossil fuels.
Shailini with a group of weavers in a village, understanding and assessing their their skills and needs
T – Your Khadi Organic Bag was tailored by Kirti and Madhu
Your organic khadi bag was sewn by Kirti and Madhu. They are both talented master tailors with skill and experience. They are also both physically challenged and are strongwilled, happy women. They have recently moved out of a hostel into their own flat. Kirti will soon be married to her partner who is also physically challenged.
P – Screen Printed by Hand
Your organic khadi bag was screenprinted by hand in a small studio in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The printers first make screens (templates) for the print design – one for each colour. The design is then hand printed one colour at a time, as seen in the video below.
W – Where Does It Come From?
Jo and Lucy from 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 and this is Lucy our project manager. Currently based in Ipswich, Suffolk (UK) we work closely with socially focused 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 – see our Ethical Credentials. 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!