O – ORGANIC COTTON
This is the story of your child’s 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 us – 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!
Cotton Selection by Experts
SOME OF THE PROCESSES USED IN THE CONTRACT FARMING…..
Monitoring end to end processes
Buying back the cotton at a fair price
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.
Meet a farmer, Prashant Tale, from Akola district:
“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.”
1 – SPINNING THE COTTON
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 produced for required yarn counts on machines. A co-operative called Udyog Bharati based in Saurashtra region then distributed the slivers amongst its 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 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 Sangeeta, one of the spinners…..
“Kem Chho! I’m Sangeeta Sarmani
and I’m 27 years old. I have been spinning since 10 years at Udyog Bharti workers’ Unit and I love my work place. I have many friends here, I enjoy so much that I get bored at home on Sundays! For the last 2 years I am placed in spinning organic cotton. This is chemical free cotton and a very special care is taken. We work in our designated area only and store our hanks with special organic labels. I support my family through my work on Ambar Charkha and pay for my own upkeep. I like this freedom!”
“I enjoy my work along with friends so much that I get bored at home on Sundays!”
3 – WEAVING THE COTTON
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…
“Namaste! My name is Dhirubhai Solanki and I am 50 years old. I learnt weaving from my father; I have been weaving since the past 35 years. I used to weave pure cotton handloom for the Khadi centre in Visavadar earlier
and Bapunagar. I now weave for Gondal’s Udyog Bharti as they give me better wages. For the last two years I have been also weaving organic cotton. I earn around 5,000/- rupees
a month. I begin my day at
6 AM. I weave from 2Am to 12 Pm and break for lunch
and rest. I resume at 2:30 PM again and weave till 6:30 PM. My family consists of five members, my wife, two boys, a girl and me. My daughter has studied till the 10th grade, she now helps me in my work.”
“I work only in sunlight so that there are no chances of spoiling the fabric by not seeing it properly!”
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 colour options and motif placements were worked out and final selections were made after lots of deliberations at the studio! Once the design and colours were decided they started working on fabrics.
When the fabric was ready at the co-op, it went for washing and dying. An old, traditional hand dying unit did the dying. This method is more labour intensive but uses no carbon and significantly less water than conventional methods. Only Azo free dyes were used which were low in harmful chemicals.
MAKING THE BLOCKS
For block printing, wooden blocks with patterns of tigers, tortoises, 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, “Ramratanl 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 is at risk. Ramratan comes up with a totally dynamic approach to wood carving. Putting aside his traditional motifs and patterns, and with the help of a designer, he carves contemporary blocks such as Ant, Tortoise, Tiger and Elephant!
These blocks are then supplied to the block printer Mr Jayantibhai.
USING THE BLOCKS FOR PRINTING
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 tigers on cut pieces of the shirts.
Printing was done in two stamps for the tigers – the black outline is printed first and then the orange 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 and today he is known as a master Karigar (Artisan). This is 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 our partners in India to create and develop the designs to ensure that the wonderful fabrics are made into garments that will work for you and your children. 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 Blog section, including newspaper and radio coverage. It’s been wonderful to be acknowledged for our work – 2015 brought us 3rd place 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.
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!