The Story of your handwoven khadi cotton Bag

cotton growing in Gujarat. The story handwoven khadi cotton bag from Where Does It Come From?

Congratulations on being the new owner of a Where Does It Come From? handwoven khadi cotton bag. We worked with social enterprises in India to create your bag and to share it’s story with you. Here is its life story (so far….). We hope you will love it and use it for many years to come.

Your handwoven khadi cotton bag started life in a cotton field. The cotton for your bag was selected from local, small cotton farms located close to the khadi co-operative in Gujarat. This ensures a lower carbon footprint for the fabric as well as providing work for small holder farmers.

Khadi is a traditional handspun, handwoven fabric which was heavily promoted by Mahatma Gandhi amongst others, for its ethical and environmental benefits, as well as it’s beautiful, rustic look and feel.

To get the cotton fibre ready for spinning the first step is to remove the seeds – this process is called ginning.  The fluffy cotton balls are now processed and turned into slivers ready to be spun into thread.

S. Spun into Yarn at Udyog Bharti

Meenaben the spinner - your handwoven khadi cotton bag
Meenaben the Spinner

The cotton fibre for your cotton bag was spun into thread by hand at the Udyog Bharti co-operative in Gujarat. This co-operative is one of many founded by Gandhi and now run by the Indian Government. They were founded to provide rural livelihoods, especially for women, and provide a ‘whole family’ support system.

Spinning and weaving is done by hand using a mechanical process powered by a hand crank or foot pedal, or sometimes solar power. This makes the process totally carbon free and very eco-friendly.

Now it’s time to meet one of the spinners…

My name is Meenaben. Kem chho?!

I have been one of the younger ones to spin yarns in our neighbourhood.

My son is studying in 10th standard. We are planning for his future studies.

Three lady spinners. The story of your handwoven khadi cotton bag from Where Does It Come From?

The co-op is good and fair. We are given the cotton by weight and the count of yarns we should spin. Any problem, they would help. When we go to the office, they check and double check the weight per kilo, the length of yarns we have spun and also the quality of yarns by conducting tests.   They say “We are fair to you and also to the co-op! We are careful that there is no injustice to either party!!”

Meenaben works with two of her neighbours who have also been spinning cotton for Where Does It Come From?  They also span the fabric for our last scarf production. They are part of a community which does not encourage women to go out to work, so they can spin from their home and earn money to supplement their family income.

W. Woven into Fabric at Udyog Bharti

Jyotsnaben the weaver

My name is Jyotsnaben. Namaste!

I come from the weaver’s family and I learnt weaving at home. It was a pit loom. Now I have learnt to weave on paddle loom. I do not have a place to keep the loom in my house and for years I have been coming to the co-op and use their loom instead! I do not live far so it helps!! The weaving and spinning center stays open from 8.00 in the morning till 6.00 in the evening. After finishing the housework, I can come only at 9.30 / 10.00! This is not like a factory. I can come at my time and get paid for the length of fabric I weave. Of course, I want to do more so that I get paid more!!

My husband works on the building site on a daily wage basis. He is a bricklayer.

My eldest son is also a weaver and he goes to weave traditional silk ‘patola’. It requires clean and perfect craftsmanship and he gets paid well. I am very happy with it!!

M: Moral Fibre Fabrics

love heartwood bag
Rasikbhai the Master Tailor

Where Does It Come From? and Moral Fibre Fabrics have been partners for many years and have produced a number of collections together, both for retail and for business. Moral Fibre is a social enterprise that works with the co-operatives and artisan groups locally in Gujarat to deliver the required garments and textiles.

One of the tailors we work with is Rasikbhai. He is a master craftsman who works alone from his flat and usually focuses on working with upholstery – cutting and stitching bedspreads and tablewear by hand. He is known for his precision and cutting and sewing precise shapes and sizes.

khadi organic bag Anuka
handwoven khadi cotton bag Anuka

The social enterprise also includes other skilled tailors, one seen here measuring up for jewelry pouches for ethical jewelry brand Anuka.

L: Printing the Logo

Your handwoven khadi cotton bag has been printed by hand using a screen printing technique.

We work with a local group of artisan printers in Ahmedabad run by Tahirbhai. His team have worked on many of the Where Does It Come From? scarves, shirts and children’s clothing.

The logo design is printed out to scale on special paper. This will be exposed and a screen will be prepared with fine holes where the design is. This will allow the dyes to pass through and the pattern gets printed on fabric. It is an amazing process!

Printing artisans for Where Does It Come From? ethical clothing - MORALFIBRE Fabrics

Tahirbhai, the master printer works with seven artisans, five of them are seen here. From L to R Nanjibhai, Kasimbhai, Ganubhai, Rahemanbhai and Babubhai. they all live within walking distance to the printing unit. It is fascinating to know that all of them have been printers all their lives and most of their life they have worked together as a team. They have worked for many different maser printers but they themselves worked in the same team. They are paid a basic wage and then an additional amount for quantity. They can lay out and print 1500 metres of fabric in a day.

screen printing Kind2 logo on a handwoven khadi cotton bag
Screenprinting Logos by hand

Each printing table is 30 meters long they work in a team of two on six different tables, one table at a time. needless to say, their synergy is very unique. They do not need to talk much while working. They understand and respond to one another beautifully. They are like a family, probably more than a family and they also enjoy their tea breaks together. They do not generally do small orders like ours so it was a great experience working with them.

When your bag was ready it was sent off to the UK, checked and then sent out to be filled with gorgeous goodies for you!

W – Where Does It Come From?

love heartwood bag from Where Does It Come From? ethical traceable and fairtrade.
Jo Salter from Where Does It Come From? (taken by Gerard Hughes)

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 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 textile clothing and accessories that you will want to use again and again. We hope that finding out about how your clothes and accessories 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.  We love working with like minded businesses to create bags and other products for them. If you love your bag please check out our clothing items such as tunics, shirts, scarves and children’s clothing in our Website Shop.

You can read more about our work in our News & Blog section, including newspaper and radio coverage.  We’ve had a celebrity endorsement too – we were delighted and honoured when Joanna Lumley wore one of our scarves on her TV documentary ‘Joanna Lumley’s India’.