"Once you have felt the Indian dust you will never be free of it." Rumer Godden, 1975
There is no place like India, it shakes you from all sides. From the emotional sadness at the disparities of wealth to an immense feeling of fun with laughter shared with the people that you meet there. India is raw, it is extreme, it is humanity.
I think you develop a greater inspiration for the planet. Laugh you may... if you have never been.
Yarn Yarn leave the UK heading for a magical place. We take a sleeper into the wilds arriving in the State of Bihar. We are met by our partner at 4am and taken for a few hours sleep before we set off in a truck to visit very deprived villages where women spin our yarn. They don't spin yarn for groups of tourists or artists interested in learning the wonders of the textile industry India is famous for. They spin as it is their only source of income. We can glamorise spinning by tradtional ways with drop spindles and charkas. We can glamorise the colours, the smiles, the talent, but in fact we are humbled, repulsed, emotional and shocked and yet excited and amazed at their talent!
We enter a village where wild dogs lie sleeping and what seems like one thousand skinny goats hop around and chickens cluck. We are welcomed by a few children and a handful of women. I have a huge lump in my throat, which eventually resides. These people live on top of their open sewers. They have no electricity or running water. They live in houses made of cow dung. I cannot describe the smell. When night time falls, pitch dark, that is it. Tools down. Primitive living. Not even a candle.
The women sit on a wooden plank that is painted bright blue. A few children loiter around mesmerised by us. Within a few minutes there area few more. Within about 10 minutes there is there are more than 70 onlookers excited at seeing a western face for the first time.
After watching for a while I try hand spinning with a drop spindle. My fingers sting. This caused hilarity in the yard as I was totally useless! My hands in knots, their laughter infectious.
It takes a whole day to make 1KG of yarn with a drop spindle.
They sit together and spin and chat. They are proud of their work. Spinning this yarns give the women and families an income. It gives these women a sense of purpose. Unfortunately in these villages the men drink liquor and do not contribute to the family income. A huge problem in Bihar.
And the children just want to be like their mummies.
I could have spent all day there with these special people. It was such fun. I will miss them. A LOT.
Weaving and hand looms.
Mainly men do the weaving in the next village we visited. Notice their hand looms are made from waste bits of wood. They build a hole in the ground for their feet and get to work. The fabrics they make are made from waste silk, linens and cottons. It takes about one day to make four metres of fabric. If it rains they cannot work, like in the monsoon seasons for instance. There are holes in the roof.
Cushion covers, throws, rugs and curtains are made here. There is so much work goes into each piece of fabric. I just hope their customers and department stores appreciate this!
On our way to the next village we visit a government run school. The children run to see us! They beam at our western faces. Government schools are not very well run at all. The children have no pens pencils, paper, maps or workbooks. The school teacher could barely speak English. We were humbled and couldn't stop thinking about these little children and their lack of resources. Thanks to our customers Yarn Yarn is now funding this school with all their stationary and learning materials out of the profits from selling handspun yarns.
Dying, drying and sari silk ribbon production.
Dying of the sari silk waste fibres and banana yarn fibres is done in huge batts. The fibres are steeped for 3 to 4 hours. The dyes used are azo free and of oeko tex standards as per EU norms.
Once the fibres have been dyed they are pulled from these great big batts and slapped out on top of an old fridge door to drain before they are hung out on the rooftops to dry before spinning. Primitive measures, magical yarns. This really is how they make our yarn!
It was heaven up there...
The end result... beautiful sari silk yarn.
Sari silk ribbon production.
The sari silk fabric waste scraps are taken from bags that arrive from the sari mills to homes and villages across Bihar. It is then sorted and hand torn. It is then sewn end to end to form a continuous ribbon yarn called sari silk ribbon using the most amazing vintage sewing machines. The woman on the right is tearing the sari silk ribbon which is undyed. It is then sewn end to end. I attempt this but no good with a hand winding sewing machine!
This image is of women sorting through the multicoloured sari silk fabric waste to produce your multicoloured sari silk ribbon.
The dying of sari silk ribbon is exactly the same as sari silk yarn dying. For our spray dyed sari silk ribbon they spray with pots of dye and rods, dip and spray!
Bags of fibres. Julie is in her happy place.
Banana fibres hanging out to dry on the rooftop of a home.
We also visit an inspiring artisan who block prints, screen prints and hand paints silk scarves, saris and cloth. See how the saris are laid on the grass to dry! We have some vintage sari silk fabric metre lengths on sale in our shop for cushion making and textile arts and crafts.
At the end of our trip we go back to the city and spend time with some families we work with. We have our hands henna and eat Indian cakes before we head back to the city by sleeper train. Yarn Yarn will never forget this trip. We also cannot wait to work for more years to come with these people. A big thank you to all our customers. You area discerning bunch. Without you there would be no yarns, there would be no women employed to make these yarns and there would be no magic!