Fair trade, handmade goods are not just beautiful, they’re vital. Why? Because at their core each one offers a sustainable and ethical solution for both people and our planet. As this global pandemic inexorably moves on through the nation of Bangladesh an economic catastrophe is emerging in its wake. Certainly every industry is impacted but for this article we’re focused on what’s happening in the arena of traditional handwoven saris, shawls, blankets and more.
When I first arrived in Bangladesh in 1989, over 1 million handlooms were working and 65% of production was sold locally. Thirty years later there are less than a third of that many hand weavers and just 25% of the handwoven fabrics and goods are sold in country. An awful demise for many reasons. For generations entire village communities have been built, grown and thrived as traditions are passed down and carried on with pride. And these skills are not just those of the weaver weaving the cloth. Dozens of people and whole families are involved in preparing the yarn and warp, setting up the loom, repair and maintenance of all the tools, parts and machinery, transport and delivery to market and so much more.
Here are just a few pics of some of the process:
- The yarn is often not strong enough to take the tension on the loom so at first it’s strengthened with rice starch by 2 or 3 women in different stages.
- Yarn then gets processed by at least another 2 or 3 women to fill the spools and bobbins with all the colours the fabric design needs.
- The Weave Master then starts the exacting process of setting every thread in its right order for the final design.
- Another 2 women in their homes then thread each yarn through a system on shafts to keep those yarns in order throughout the weaving.Weavers at the production centre then team up to dress the loom with the warp, shafts and one more threading through a reed so the yarns keep the right density and width.
- Only then does the weaver sit at the loom and begin that hypnotic rhythm. Coordinating hands, eyes, feet, in fact the whole body to ensure an evenly woven fabric emerges.
- Depending on the design an experienced weaver creates 5 – 12 yards of fabric a day.
And these are just a few of the many people involved in creating a handwoven fabric – isn’t that amazing! Just how many livelihoods are maintained, how many communities are strengthened, how much health our environment enjoys! When we live a holistic life the impact is exponential for others and for ourselves. Our resources, time and money are then invested not simply spent, we choose more wisely and recognise that we really are all in this together to keep both people and planet as fruitful as possible for each other.
If you’re an ethically minded maker looking for truly ethically sourced handmade fabrics please check out our Facebook Shop. Lots of beauties there and more to come. If you’re a designer/maker looking for more than 10yds, just drop me a line for wholesale prices.
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