Under the spotlight: From raw cotton to finished fabric.
In the Blow Room the doors to the outside are open, revealing the intense greenery of tropical southern India. The thick heat wafts into the room, enveloping us in an instant. Women flock to the open bundles of compressed cotton. They start to prepare it, getting it ready for the machine that will move slowly over the top of its fluffy cloud-like formation. It separates the cotton fibres, removing the remnants of the cotton plant, leaving them to one side.
They make a batch of basketweave cotton fabric, dyed in our popular shade of Duck Egg Blue. Before they start, the yarn must be cleaned so that the dye can penetrate the threads, assuring an even quality of colour. We stand by their sides, watching with fascination as they drop un-dyed cotton hangs into wood-fired boilers so the cleaning process can begin; the sweet smell of smoke hanging in the air.
The dye master mixes together green and blue pigment powders to create our favourite shade of blue. We ask him for the recipe but he just grins and winks at us. Like a master chef, he guards his little secret. The yarn has to be submerged horizontally, then lifted, flipped and submerged again. When asked why they dye the yarn first, everyone throws their arms in the air. “Quality,” the dye master says. “Yarn-dyed fabric has a better quality of colour.”
At the loom the weaver sits, his traditional south Indian dhoti – a type of sarong – falling to his knees, never close to the pedals. “Basketweave is strong,” he explains, gesturing to the formation of the horizontal and vertical threads that weave in and out of each other with an intricate complexity. “It’s more resistant to tearing.” A slight frown crests his forehead, “Nothing worse than having holes or tears in your fabric, what would people think of you?!”
The tool used to roll the fabric up so that it can be packaged and sold, is outside. A craftsman is eager to show us this final stage, grinning and gently waggling his head as he winds the fabric onto a cardboard roll. “This part gives us the best feeling,” he explains. “When we wind the fabric up for packaging, we have the opportunity to admire all the work we’ve done and feel real pride.”
Take a closer look at our Duck Egg Blue collection