Collaborating to Revision Waste: Volunteering at WomenWeave

Collaborating to Revision Waste: Volunteering at WomenWeave

At a Khadi Unit there is bound to be a lot of yarn wastage. With the hand spinning of natural natural fibres dyed with natural dyes by hand, it is an unfortunate inevitability that some hanks won’t make the standard on uniformity necessary for weaving. At WomenWeave, these hanks are used for embroidery, edging and other finishing details such as tassels and pompoms, but there is still a huge surplus of otherwise unusable yarn. During my time with them, I spent a little time playing around with some yarn wastage developing a couple ideas on how this yarn could potentially be used in a productive way.

WomenWeave has a large creche unit with a supervisor and a teacher for the young children of mothers who are at work and in the afternoons it fills up with many children having finished school. While exploring new ways to use this yarn productively I was accompanied by the sounds of the younger kids playing and my mind kept going back to my childhood. During my school holidays I would spend days on end trying out all sorts of braids, knots and whatever else I could find in my mother’s collection of crafts books. I was always encouraged to take apart whatever I felt necessary and to put them back together in new ways. Looking back on this time as an adult I believe that the freedom for creative play was very important in developing my character and the basic wiring of my brain when it comes to creative production and problem solving.

So while I was trying out all sorts of things with the yarn, taking them apart, improving, reassembling and plotting out the steps so that they could be replicated, I slowly found myself surrounded by schoolgirls. At first a couple seemed shyly interested from a distance while I worked. Some came a little closer as I went through the designs with the lovely Sangita Madam who would head any potential production. As time passed and familiarity grew they became surprisingly confident, joining in the demonstration, copying what my steps, trying new things, showing me different techniques of their own and playing with colour combinations as well as advising mine.

For me handwork work has always been a somewhat obsessive compulsion, whether it be drawing, sewing, painting etc. I strongly feel that this is my meditation and that when my hands are busy I have some of my clearest thoughts, a sentiment that I know many people relate to. While I was twisting away at some loose ends, I watched the girls playing with the yarn “wastage” as they waited for their mothers to finish with their days work of weaving and the many associated activities.

I began to think about the desired outcomes of waste reduction: In a commercial set up finding inventive ways to produce new, marketable products from otherwise unprofitable materials is often viewed as an ideal outcome for “sustainability”. However, at organisations like WomenWeave and many other groundbreaking handcrafts NGOs I have had the privilege of interacting with, the central goals are skills training, income generation for craftspeople and general social upliftment. In this community centric model perhaps using material waste as a tool to nurture a familiarity with material, to encourage invention and creative design thinking might be a more viable vision for long term and self sufficient sustainability.

I am thoroughly looking forward to returning to this inspiring organisation next year and am formulating a couple of activities which could be introduced into this specific childcare environment which would stimulate creative thinking, a tool that I believe is valuable for any child and especially for potential future designer-artisans.


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