A tale of Zero Waste
Posted on August 18 2018
Textiles and beautiful trinkets are a life long passion of mine. I see beauty in just about everything and if its little I find somewhere to keep it. If its fibre it will always come in handy so I find somewhere to keep it. If it has been hand made I will find somewhere to keep it. So many memories are related to things we have chosen to keep, thoughts and emotions associated with each treasure. Friends would give me things they didn't want to keep but also didn't want to dispose of, they know I will find somewhere to keep it. Now I have shared this knowledge with you what I'm about to share will make sense........sort of.
At my sewing machine table I have 2 piles next to me on the ground, one for threads cut off and one of little bits of cloth cut off throughout the creative process. I can't even dispose of these! As I only use natural fibre for all things made these 'scraps' will also come in handy one day and they do.
For 25 years I bred silkworms so I can honestly say I have spent several years standing watching silkworms spin their silk. I have fed them, cleaned their environment, built them spinning areas and introduced them to mates. Every year I have gathered their eggs and stored them safely ready for the next generation. For over 25 years I have worked with silk fibre and fabric, how could I waste one thread when I know and have been part of its creation and how time consuming that process is. Precious!
I was taught to hand stitch by my grandmother when I was 7, grandma was a depression girl and she taught me the ideals of a use for everything. Grandma's house was carpeted with ragrugs she and her mother had made. My first project with her was a patchwork quilt. I treasured the bundles of treasures I found in Grandma's sewing cupboard and in her linen press. I now have the same bundles.
As a child I craved to be part of a culture where women sat together to hand embroider or hand stitch at night or on a day of rest. Items created for births, marriages and deaths, pieces for festivals and celebrations, the talk and gentle whispers around such gatherings. The techniques and skills passed on from mother to daughter. Colour and texture and detailed historical stories embroidered on beautiful hand spun hand loomed cloth. My grandmother was the last of the females in my family to sit and stitch like this, she excelled at drawn threadwork and patchwork but her work had no colour or story or texture such as handloom. I have spent hours reading, researching and drooling at museums over such textile history. I have a few treasured pieces but I also view this with mixed emotions. This is someones families work, their history and their story. Are there descendants looking for these treasures? I remember an experience with an antique dealer many years ago, I can still feel the emotions today like I did that day. They thought they were very clever to heave out in front of me the most breath taking pieces from Afghanistan, thick rich embroidery on amazing heavily loomed cloth. The disgusting way this dealer both handled this work and spoke of it, to me, was soul destroying. There was no emotion or appreciation of this priceless work, to her it was all about the money. It took me weeks to recover from that day and I had many visions of stomping in to rescue those artefacts and demonising that woman but in the end I had to find somewhere to keep those emotions too.
My dye garden helps to ease and cleanse my soul. Hour upon hour is spent tending my garden. Always thinking and preparing for the next season as each season brings its own colours. What I put into my garden is miniscule compared to what I receive in return. Every day wondering through my tiny garden there is a joy to be found. Each time I turn the soil and add compost or feed it this impacts on the colour I will create. Everything is a balance and a discovery. The heat of each season impacts on my colours, the ph of the water, the amount of water, who gets planted next to who and at what time I harvest the flowers. A never ending world of discovery.
There are no words to describe my elation discovering the world of Khadi. It was like I had found my long lost family. I can stand for hours ironing Khadi and looking and reading the stories within the weave. You can see where the weaver felt peaceful, where they were interrupted, where someone else took over for a while and when they were feeling the rhythm of the loom. Then there is the yarn within the weave, hand spun with texture and the priceless touch of human energy. United, hand spun and hand loom, create the most incredible story of community. From the farmer that grew the cotton, the plucker who picked it, the chatter as all this was happening. The man who came to transport the cotton to the village, the spinners who came to gather their fibre to spin, again the chatter and life evolving around the yarn. Then off to the weaver and more people involved in this weaving house and the washerman waiting to gather the newly woven cloth to wash and finish it. Khadi is a cloth of the people, a cloth that takes a village to make. A cloth that holds the Khadi spirit.
And then we come to #zerowaste
It is against everything I know and everything I live by, there is no reason for waste in my production circle, I have made sure of that for all the above reasons.
All my dye waste is composted, my dye water is exhausted completely of dye pigment and is returned to my dye garden. Mordant water is used multiple times so it too is an exhausted vat returned to the dye garden.
I have elastic buried in my backyard experimenting on how long it takes to decompose. My thoughts still out on zips even though they are handy!! My buttons are shell. Our garments will completely return to the earth, I don't want to be responsible for landfill from my work. My garments are all designed around the concept of zero waste. What offcuts there are are used to create quilts and bits too small are used to make Khadi paper.
There is absolute zero waste from anything created by Because of Nature.
I am returning to Bodhgaya, Bihar in September to continue our work on our Happy Hands Project and training women artisans with my natural dye skills. We are aiming to provide employment for 200 women.
With me will travel just under 10kg of Khadi scraps ready to be made into Khadi paper. It has taken me 3 &1/2 years to compile this amount of scraps.
Our Happy Hands Project is in honour of traditional artisans. The production of Khadi supports a village and establishes pride and respect for their culture and traditional skills. It provides sustainable employment and hope for a wonderful future.