Sheer cotton window curtains

We have added decorative sheer cotton window curtains to our collection.  These curtains have been hand block printed. The fabric used is cotton that has been woven on a power loom with 80s count cotton yarn. Each curtain is 44 inches wide and 65 inches (1.65 metres) long. The curtains have convenient loops for hanging on curtain rods.

The curtains can be machine washed with a mild detergent and ironed. The photographs featured alongside have 3 curtains.

This fabric is translucent and lets daylight through.

Window curtain with traditional motifs (WCN-01)

Click here to shop now

 

Sheer cotton window curtains (WCN-02)

Click here to shop now!

 

Decorative cotton curtains (WCN-03)

Click here to shop now!

Sheer window curtains (WCN-04)

Click here to shop now!

Daylight window curtain (WCN-05)

Click here to shop now!

Please visit www.chaani.in to browse through the entire collection of sarees and curtains.

Advertisements

Indigo cotton sarees

We’ve got a new collection of indigo cotton sarees. For those of you who don’t know it, these sarees are printed in a town called Bagru in Rajasthan (India). Bagru is about 30 kms from Jaipur but is literally a world away. This town is renowned for it block prints. Resist printing is one of the many techniques practiced here.

White cotton fabric is stretched on a block printing table and a resist is printed on the fabric. The resist paste is called “Dabu”. The resist paste is made of wheat husk, lime, clay and gum arabic. Each family that practices this technique has its own “dabu” recipe. This paste is printed on the fabric using hand-carved wooden blocks.  Saw dust is sprinkled on the wet dabu paste to absorb the moisture. The fabric is then allowed to dry.

Once dry, the fabric is then dipped in a vat of indigo. The portions printed with the dabu paste resist the indigo colour and remain white. The portions without the “dabu” paste absorb the indigo dye.

Indigo has an interesting property. The fabric gets dyed darker with every subsequent dip in the vat. In order to get light and dark shades of indigo, the fabric is printed again with a layer of dabu after the first dip in the vat and then dyed again.

The sarees in our collection are fine examples of this technique. The fabric used for these saree was woven on a power loom using 80s count cotton yarn. The fabric falls and drapes well. It is soft. The sarees have blouses. The width of the saree is 44 inches and is suitable for tall ladies as well. These are ideal for use as daily wear sarees. Every saree lover must possess one of these.

Please visit http://www.chaani.in to browse through other sarees in our collection.

Block printed fabric

We have some printed cotton fabric that can be used for making kurtas. Here is some information about the fabric.

My wife, who is the perfect example of good things coming in small packages, has graciously agreed to be a clothes-horse to showcase the dimensions of the fabric. She is a fun-sized powerhouse standing at 156 cms.

Fabric code: GMT

The fabric is woven on a power loom. The yarn used is 80s count cotton. Click on the link below to browse through the catalogue

https://www.chaani.in/collections/block-printed-fabric-with-woven-borders

 

Economics, Yoga and Well being

Lionel Robbins defined economics as the study of human behaviour in the pursuit of fulfilling unlimited wants with limited resources that can be put to alternate uses.

Sendhil Mullainathan, in his book ‘Scarcity’, goes one to examine human behavior when “you have less than you feel you need”.

Sendhil explains that “Scarcity captures the mind.” He goes on to say that “the mind orients automatically, powerfully towards unfulfilled needs.”

I quote the following from Sendhil’s book ‘Scarcity’:

“When scarcity captures the mind we become more attentive and efficient. There are many situations in our lives where maintaining focus can be challenging. We procrastinate at work because we keep getting distracted. We buy over priced items at a grocery store because our minds are elsewhere. A tight deadline or a shortage of cash focuses us on the task at hand. With our minds riveted, we are less prone to careless error”

Sendhil follows this up with another statement “But we cannot fully choose when our minds will be riveted

About 2300 years ago, a man named Patanjali wrote a book called the Yogasutra. This book deals with the mind and what we can do to influence it.

The Yogasutra defines yoga as the ability to direct the mind without distraction or interruption” – T.K.V. Desikachar in ‘The heart of Yoga’

Please consider these statements carefully.

Sendhil Mullainathan asks the question “Where does the feeling of scarcity come from?” – page 11, ‘Scarcity’

Scarcity stems from our perception of things and situations.

I quote T.K.V.Desikachar from ‘The heart of Yoga’

“An important concept from Patanjali’s Yoga sutra has to do with the way we perceive things, and it explains why we are always getting into difficulties in life. If we know how we create such problems, we can also learn how to free ourselves of them.”

Sendhil explains that when the mind is captured by scarcity, it puts pressure on your “bandwidth”. Scarcity can make you focus. Scarcity can make you tunnel.

While he explains human behavior in the face of scarcity, he does not explain how to overcome this feeling of scarcity.

You can overcome this feeling of scarcity by correcting your perception.

Again, I quote T.K.V.Desikachar from ‘The heart of Yoga’

“How does perception work? We often determine that we have seen a situation correctly and act according to that perception. In reality, however, we have deceived ourselves and our actions may thus bring misfortune to ourselves and others. Just as difficult is the situation in which we doubt our understanding of a situation when it is actually correct, and for that reason take no action, even though doing so would be beneficial. The Yoga Sutra uses the term avidya to describe these two ends of the spectrum of experience. Avidya literally means incorrect comprehension. The goal of yoga is to reduce the film of avidya in order to act correctly.”

The process of fulfilling unlimited wants with limited means (that have alternate uses) leads to stress and distress. Stress alters our perception of a situation and hence our decision making under stress is faulty.

“Whether things get better or worse depends to a considerable extent on our own actions. The recommendation of a regular yoga practice follows the principle that through practice we can learn to stay present in every moment and thereby achieve much that we were previously incapable of” – T.K.V.Desikachar from ‘The heart of Yoga’

Lionel Robbins and Sendhil state a problem and describe the human response to the problem. The problem being the fulfillment of unlimited wants with limited resources

In this description, the human being appears to be a hapless, passive victim of the workings of his /her own mind. It seems as though the human being is incapable of addressing the “scarcity mindset”

Yoga, on the other hand, empowers the individual. The ashta-angas or eight limbs of yoga arm the individual with tools and methods to overcome the scarcity mindset. The practice of yoga enables the individual to move to a state of well being without being dependent on external agencies.

I would like to conclude with Ramanuja’s definition of yoga in his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita.

Apraptasya praptih yogam. Praptasya rakshanam ksemam.

Yoga is the attainment of what has until now not been attained. Well being is the protection or preservation of what has been attained.

Printing on Silk

I have for the longest time wanted to print on silk. This year it finally happened. The process began in 2013 when I spent a month at the weaver’s service centre experimenting on silk fabric.

The process

Silk is a protein fibre. Acid dyes are required to fasten the colour to the fibre. The preparation of the printing paste is different for acid dyes.

The ingredients required are the dye stuff, boiling water to dissolve the dye stuff, gum Arabic (1:1 paste), DEG (Diethylene glycol) and acetic acid. One must be careful not to add too much water to the dye stuff else the printing paste will become too watery. This is not conducive for printing.

Once the printing paste is prepared, the colour is applied to the fabric by block printing. This printed fabric is then allowed to dry.

After it is dried the printed fabric is steamed for 90 minutes to fix the colour. The fabric is then rinsed 3 times in order to remove the excess gum and dye stuff. It is important to use fresh water for each rinse. If after 3 rinses, the fabric continues to bleed colour, continue rinsing till water is clear.

The nuance

The nature of acid dyes is that the true colour emerges only after the steaming and rinsing process. So it is important for the printer to know the right combination of dye stuff to use to obtain the desired shade.

Acid dyes have another special quality. The same dyestuff will result in different shades depending on the quantity of dye stuff used. For example, if 10 gms of dyestuff is used for 1 kg of printing paste, then a dark shade is obtained. Similarly, if 3 gms of the same dye stuff is used, a lighter shaded is obtained.

Training the craftsman

Passing on what I learnt to my craftsman was harder than I thought.

First, there is always resistance to try something new.

  • For the last 10 years, Dhanasekhar has been working only with pigments. He has absolutely mastered it. He was in a comfort zone and didn’t want to get out of it.
  • Learning a new skill would require an investment in time that could be otherwise be spent earning. With two school going children, he was reluctant to take the plunge.
  • Printing with pigments is easy. It does not require all the processes that printing with acid dyes requires. There is no steaming and rinsing involved.
  • Steaming and rinsing requires a lot of water for every sari. Dhanasekar gets water once every three days in his house. Water is stored for personal use. To use this for the saris would severely deplete the water available.
  • The ingredients required are not available in Dhanasekhar’s town. Sources had to be identified in Erode for the ingredients.
  • Identifying the source for the fabric. I tried several sources and different types of silk. I tried tussar from Jharkhand, Silk from Rasipuram and Uppada. I was not happy with the texture or the weight or the drape of the fabric. Thanks to one of my clients, I identified a weaver in Tanjavur who was able to provide me with the kind of fabric that I wanted.

After nearly three years, I was able to overcome these hurdles. Dhanasekhar decided that he wanted to expand his horizons and finally agreed to work with silk. I sent him 20 tussar silk stoles with which to experiment. I told him not to worry about making mistakes and that I did not intend to sell these stoles. It was for him to learn and get familiar with the process and the nuances mentioned above. I also told him, he would be paid a lot more for printing on silk as it was more complex than printing with pigments. After a month of practice he was ready.

I sent him hand woven, silk fabric from Tanjore. The finished products are shown below.

The Yarn behind the weave

The word handloom evokes images of a weaver caught in the meditative rhythm of the loom bringing warp and weft together. It conjures images of a pure, uncorrupted, simpler life for which we all yearn. It is associated with a simplicity and purity of purpose; that of making cloth.

The word “handloom” is symbolic of a tradition and a way of life that connects us to our past. An unbroken thread of continuity in an otherwise fragmented and fractured history.

The handloom has survived over thousands of years. It has survived invasions, religions, cultures, fashion, mechanization and imports. The handloom is resilient. The handloom retains its mystique and its charm.

However, we are so caught up in the romance of the handloom that we don’t see that the life of a weaver is hanging by a thread. The weaver’s life is strung along like a supporting actor in a badly made Bollywood film.

To patronize the handloom sector, in its present state, is to perpetuate the economic slavery of the handloom weaver. Structural changes need to be made, in this sector, to improve the lives of the weavers.

Policy is often framed for this sector ignoring one important aspect in the weaver’s life; the relationship between the weaver and the master weaver. I would like to examine this micro aspect of the sector. Progress or reform in this sector is not possible without breaking the ties between the weaver and the master-weaver.

Structural reform has to be made to enable the weaver to be woven into the fabric of the economy. The weaver is currently an outsider whose only link to the mainstream is the master weaver. Once free of the master-weaver, he or she should be able to rely on a structural framework that will allow the weaver to function as an independent economic entity – producing and selling cloth from home.

The weaver and master-weaver

The handloom weaver, typically, has one or two looms at home. The family members spend time at the loom making cloth. The yarn for weaving is given by the master-weaver. The finished cloth is handed over to the master-weaver. The weaver gets wages for his efforts.

A handloom weaver can weave between 2 and 2.5 metres of cloth in a day. Every week or every two weeks the weavers go to the master-weaver’s house and give him the woven cloth and collect wages. The wages vary depending on the complexity of the design.

Traditionally a master-weaver was one who had complete knowledge of the weaving process, came up with designs, colour combinations and was simply the best weaver in town. Today, the definition of master-weaver has changed. Now, a master-weaver is one who has capital to buy yarn and has access to markets and customers. By controlling yarn and access to markets, master-weavers play god in the lives of weavers. The master-weaver also is networked in the sector. Therefore, he has information about the price of yarn and uses this information to hedge risks.

Relationship between the handloom weaver and the master-weaver.

  • The master-weaver purchases yarn and gives it to the weaver. The weaver makes cloth and collects wages from the master weaver.
  • The master-weaver may sell this cloth directly to consumers or supply to shops and boutiques in cities.
  • The master-weaver collaborates with buyers to decide colour combinations and designs. The actual weaver is not part of the design process. The weaver is merely a tool or machine that puts warp and weft together. The weaver does not make a contribution to the design but plays an important role in the execution of the design.
  • For most part, the weaver just puts warp and weft together. A repetitive, monotonous, boring act that can be done faster and more efficiently by a machine.

The relationship between weaver and master-weaver is mutually exploitative.

How is the weaver affected?

  • When a weaver agrees to weave cloth for a master-weaver, he/she takes an advance or deposit from the master weaver. The sum varies from Rs.10,000/- to Rs.25,000/-. This deposit ties the weaver to the master-weaver.
    • This seems like a good thing. Now, anybody reading this piece, would assume that this deposit is put away in some interest bearing financial instrument. The sad truth is most weavers are financially excluded. Most of them, until the jandhan yojana did not have a bank account or access to formal financial channels. So typically the deposit amount is spent.
    • If the weaver and master-weaver decide to part ways, then the weaver is expected to repay the deposit amount in full. The weaver cannot do this because he has spent this money. The only way he can repay is by taking a higher advance from the next master-weaver. This puts him on a treadmill of being indebted to a master-weaver.
    • The challenge for reform in this sector is to break this relationship and make the weaver an independent producer.
  • There are no minimum wages. The wages that are paid are barely sufficient to keep body and soul together.
  • The wages to be paid are decided by a group of dominant master-weavers in a locality. This group invariably decides to keep wages low in order to maximize profits. Since there is no other alternative, he has to accept what is offered. The master-weavers argue that they pay fair wages. What are fair wages for a weaver? How does one calculate the worth of a weaver’s efforts?
  • The weaver has no access to capital to buy his own yarn. Even if he has capital, he will be able to buy small quantities from a middleman and not from the spinning mill.
  • The weaver does not know the price of yarn as it changes every month.
  • The weaver does not have direct access to customers who will buy his product. He is solely dependent on the master-weaver.

 How is the master-weaver affected?

  • The master-weaver is first out of pocket. Assuming he pays a deposit of 10,000/- to every weaver, he has to pay Rs.1,00,000/- to retain the loyalties of 10 weavers.
  • The weaver takes periodic advances from the master-weaver for medical expenses, functions, festivals and other emergencies. Essentially the weaver treats the master-weaver as an ATM.
  • If the master-weaver does not pay as expected, the weaver holds out on him and does not weave cloth on time. This delay affects the master-weaver as he is unable to fulfill his commitments.
  • Pilferage: If 500 gms of yarn is given the resulting cloth should also weigh 500 gms. This is not the case. The woven fabric weighs between 450 gms and 475 gms. There is always pilferage resulting in a loss for the master-weaver.
  • The weaver may weave the cloth with so many defects that it is not possible to sell the cloth.

Thus the master-weaver is held to ransom by the weaver. The handloom weaver is not necessarily a simple, innocent, hard-working individual. Very often the weaver is a vicious, vindictive unscrupulous parasite.

Besides the above, the sector is plagued with other problems

a)     The handloom is being used as a tool for mass production

 

A weaver in a cluster weaves cloth identical to other weavers in that cluster. In effect, there are 100 weavers weaving similar cloth producing 250 metres of cloth in one day. This can be achieved by one powerloom in one day.

 

The handloom is not a tool of mass production or standardized production. The strength of the handloom lies in its ability to custom make small quantities. No two looms need produce cloth of identical structure, weave or design. This is its USP.

By changing reed and pick, warp and weft, infinite variations can be created. Each loom can produce a unique product.

b)     The price of yarn

How is the price of yarn determined? Nobody knows. People are led to believe that the forces of supply and demand determine the price of yarn. Industry insiders believe otherwise. The price of yarn is set by a cartel of large spinning mills. There should be transparency in the pricing of yarn.

c)      Access to capital

Each handloom weaver needs working capital sufficient to purchase minimum order quantity of yarn directly from the spinning mill. This will eliminate yarn traders and wholesalers who are middlemen. Buying directly from the spinning mills will allow the weaver to procure yarn at a lower price.

d)     Awareness of savings and insurance products

The small weaver has been till recently been excluded from the banking sector. With the jandhan yojana and direct benefit transfers, the weavers have access to bank accounts. However awareness of savings and insurance products is very low. A communication and education campaign has to be launched to create awareness of the following

  • Small savings schemes offered by the post office such as PPF, NSC, KVP. It is necessary to highlight the fact that these savings instruments can be leveraged to secure loans at low interest rates.
  • One time straight life insurance policy
  • Health insurance policies

Currently the financial service providers offer loan or credit products to the low income household. As a result, firms involved in financial inclusion only seek to supplant the local money lender.

There are little or no efforts to create a savings and investment habit. Efforts continue to cultivate a borrowing and repayment habit.

I believe, the post office, with its newly acquired banking license, can play a huge role in improving the lives of weavers. They need to pull their weight. They have the network to reach out to the most remote weaver and help him get started with the savings habit.

e)      Access to market.

The weavers do not have direct access to the market. This can be changed very easily. All they need is a smart device with internet access and a facebook account. The weavers need to be trained to use the internet, email and set up facebook pages. They need to be taught to take pictures and upload these pictures.

The post office once again can aid in market access by acting as his delivery channel. They already offer cash on delivery. These services can be extended to the weaver to help him reach his product to the market.

A combination of a post office savings bank account along with a COD facility offered by the post office can go a long way in helping the weaver reach the farthest corners of this country

The way forward

A powerful consumer movement in the handloom sector started with the 100 sari pact. There are many consumer groups that have been created around the wearing of a sari. A lot of information has been exchanged about quality, type of weaver, sources. The clarion call for this movement has been “Save the handloom. Preserve the Indian textile tradition”. I only hope that this movement looks beyond the preservation of tradition to include the upliftment of the weaver. This movement has the potential to revolutionize the handloom sector. The consumer movement should also push for transparency in the price of yarn, living wages for weavers, copyright of designs.

The challenge for this sector lies in transforming the weaver into a designer. The weaver has to move from being a wage earner to an entrepreneur.

The way to preserve the Indian handloom tradition is to create an eco system that can make handloom weaving a sustainable and an economically viable occupation for all of its weavers. Save the weaver and you can save the handloom.

New year, new beginnings

I see pictures of women ‘elegantly’ wearing a sari, being posted in various forums. Invariably, the sari is draped so well, that it seems as though the person wearing it can do little else in the sari, except look elegant.

These images portray confident, successful, beautiful, strong women. Yet, the manner in which they hold themselves or the sari, confines or traps the sari. They seem to suggest that the sari is limiting or constricting.

The contrary is true. It is the person wearing the sari who is confining or limiting the sari. The sari has been trapped and confined to conform to a narrow set of values and adjectives: elegant, graceful, stylish, demure, traditional, conservative, “ladylike”, respectable, respected. These are some of the values associated with the sari.

The sari is all of the above and none of the above.

These are the words I associate with a sari

-being free

-unbridled

-non-conformist

The sari has been trapped by us. We have changed the sari from a garment that is worn everyday to something to be worn on occasion.

A woman in a sari is elegant. A woman in a sari is traditional. A woman in a sari is conservative. A woman in a sari is not free of the associations and values tagged to the sari. Therefore, the sari stands trapped along with the woman in it.

My name is Vidyuth. I am a man. I design saris.

The sari has liberated me. It has set me free. It has given me financial independence. It has given me the means to stand on my own feet. The sari has given me a creative outlet. It has allowed me to express myself and to be myself.

I owe it to the sari to liberate it from the values and adjectives that bind it. I owe it to the sari to set it free from the notions of propriety associated with it.

With these pictures, I hope to show the sari the way I see it. The sari is free, unbridled, liberated, casual, non-conformist. The sari should just be…just like the person wearing it.

The sari doesn’t need you to be “lady like”. The sari just needs you to be the woman you are.

I often hear women say, “I can’t do this in a sari”. I say to these women, “you can do anything in a sari. The sari doesn’t care. Neither should you”

The model in these pictures is Sunanda Pati. She is an actor, writer, dancer, runner and blogger. Her work can be seen at http://methodicallymadme.blogspot.in and http://noonewriteway.tumblr.com

I would like to thank her for being.

The photos were shot by Anto Clinton, magician at Ninja Kart. Thank you Clinton for capturing the essence of the sari.