Traditional craft of spinning

Avani has been working extensively with the preservation and revival of the traditional craft of weaving, spinning and natural dyeing in the Pithoragarh and Bageshwar districts of Kumaon.
Traditionally, the Shauka community and the Bora Kuthalia communities have the skill of spinning and weaving of natural fibres like wool, pashmina and hemp. This skill however is not enough for the artisans to eke out a dignified living. Very low returns for this craft have discouraged the new generation from taking it up as a livelihood option.

The inputs of Avani include product development, quality control, provision of raw materials and complete marketing support. All the products are hand woven and naturally dyed. Most of the yarns are hand spun as well. The range of products include shawls, stoles, mufflers, home furnishings and tweed garments.

Our work has involved creation of contemporary products with this traditional skill in materials like wool, silk and pashmina. We have introduced the processing of wild silks like eri and muga and are now also working with the cultivation of these silks as a backward linkage for provision of local raw materials.

Naturally dyed woolWe have done a lot of research on the use of natural dyeing of these fibres. All the materials are dyed in natural dyes that are extracted from common plants. Most of these plants are locally available eg: marigold flowers, turmeric, madder, myrobolan, eupatorium, walnut hulls, onionskin, pomegranate rind etc.

We ensure that the processes of production are eco friendly and do not harm the soil and water of the area. We are recycling all the water that is used in textile processing (washing, dyeing etc) for irrigation after filteration.
Solar water heaters are used to pre heat the water for dyeing upto 50° Celsius. Only the last 30 to 40 degrees are heated on gas, which conserves fuel.

At present Avani is working with 474 artisans in 41 villages. Though both men and women are involved in this activity, the focus is largely on women where 85 per cent of the participants of this program are women. The largest no. of artisans is from the Bora Kuthalia community (64.5% ). This activity serves as a source of supplementary income as most of the families are agrarian.

Digoli fieldcenterWe work through decentralized production centres that do not displace the artisans. These centres are managed by supervisors who belong to nearby villages. These supervisors have been trained intensively in quality control, information management, stock keeping and general management.
There are six field centres in Bageshwar and Pithoragarh districts that are located in the villages of Digoli, Dharamghar, Chankana, Sukna, Gadtir and Tripuradevi. Three villages have donated land for the construction of production centres in Digoli, Dharamghar and Sukna. Most of the villages are away from the roadhead and lie on a 30 minutes to four hours walking distance from the nearest roadhead.

This activity has created a source of livelihood in some very remote villages. The artisan’s collective has now been registered as a cooperative. It is called the Kumaon Earthcraft Self Reliant Cooperative. All activities of this business will slowly be taken care of by the cooperative.