Saturday, 6 February 2016

The Stitching Project

Day two in Pushkar was quite different to day one. We had arranged to go and visit The Stitching Project in a village just up the road - it's run by Fiona and her husband Praveen, and is a collective employing local people to make ethical clothing. You can look them up here:

Finding it was interesting because there are no maps or roadsigns, so Shyam drove out of Pushkar, past the nomads selling grass for cows and all sorts of other things, through the desert, 

and in the general direction of the village, asked for directions (probably along the lines of 'do you know an Australian woman who lives near here'), picked up a local man as a guide, and off we went to find the workshop.

We had a warm welcome from Fiona and Praveen, who were happy to chat about the aims of their project, how they got started and what they're up to today. A textile artist, Fiona has set up the workshop to bring work to local women in the village, that can be fitted in around family life, and enables them not to have to look for work further afield.

This lady is a new supervisor, learning the projects so she can work directly with the women working from home, and the blackboard gives the day's schedule.

They source ethically produced fabrics - many are Khadi or homespun fabrics, produced locally on hand looms in 11 metre lengths,

print them using traditional skills but contemporary designs, 

and then make clothing and homewares, using their own fabric and recycled saree silk and cotton. This garment is a cross between a wrap and a waistcoat - it's got armholes so that it doesn't fall off when you move. It has been hand stitched at home by one of their ladies, and this man is finishing the binding.

Much of the hand stitching is outsourced to local women, whilst the block printing, cutting, machine stitching and finishing is done by the end at the workshop. 

Even the coat hangers for shows are decorated with saree silk off-cuts, and the packaging is done in a tiny room. There is stock everywhere, but the men know exactly when to find most things. 

Indigo dyeing in done by a local dyer, 

and blocks are cut to Fiona's designs by another local man. 

He apparently took a lot of convincing to cut what he saw as imperfect blocks for Fiona's designs, which have a lovely hand drawn quality about them. He wanted to line everything up and make perfect squares and circles.

There is also unintentional art to be found on the workroom walls and the drop cloth - oh to have a workroom space like this - I think the key is keeping it uncluttered!

Garments and other products carry a label identifying who made them, and also the CraftMark for kantha stitching.

We spent a happy half an hour looking through the garments for sale and playing dressing up, and inevitably came away with some purchases. This lady is just adding some buttons to my top.

They sell their products through trade fairs, but also through Etsy and their own website - have a look ... 

Our morning ended with a roti making lesson and a shared lunch. 

Having been made very warmly welcome by everyone, we left for the long drive to Jodhpur. The road was interesting because it was not a 'highway'. Instead it ran across open countryside 

through local villages and towns, each one seemed to specialise in a different trade or craft - scrap metal and lorry repair, tyre recycling, quarrying, where trailers were beautifully stacked with stone blocks. 

It was also interesting because it was non-existent in places, with huge potholes and the obligatory speed bumps when you least expected them. They even caught Shyam out at times, and we were very glad it was him driving not us!

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