Karigar Kala Cotton Curtain
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Kala. Old World Cotton
Kutch, a district in the state of Gujarat in western India is one of the traditional textile regions of India, and one of the few districts where the former autochthonous cotton variety Kala is being cultivated again now. Kala is one of the cultivated varieties of cotton from the Old World that are still genetically "pure", meaning that it is neither a hybrid nor has it been modified genetically in any other way. Unlike most others, this variety of cotton is very robust, resistant to wind, drought and pest infestation. It does not need much care, neither does it require much irrigation and manages with the low rainfall in the region at less than 350 mm annually. Making this short staple cotton into yarn is more difficult than usual: the yarn has to be spun a little bit thicker because its fibres are shorter (20–23 mm in length).
Reanimating the Landscape and Reviving the Craftwork.
Initially, the 2001 earthquake in Gujarat set the region back ten years in its economic development, but the subsequent upswing brought with it modern production chains and the industrialisation of many sectors. For the smallholders and the weavers, however, this was an economic dead end, since they couldn’t afford modern seed, fertiliser, pesticide or raw wool and yarn, much less compete on the world market with their products. They were, therefore, looking for a local opportunity not tied to questionable investors, an opportunity encompassing everything from the raw material to the final product. It was then that they remembered Kala, an old indigenous cotton variety.
Recently, cultivation of kala cotton has begun again in the rural areas, this time using no chemical fertilisers and no irrigation at all. Several organisations provide funding support for the cultivation, processing and distribution: Khamir is one of them. The initiative for the reconstruction of the Kutch region began after the earthquake. Today, it promotes local craftspeople and traditional techniques as well as the ecological cultivation of kala cotton by providing extension services relating to seed, soil-friendly crop rotation, and information on new spinning and weaving technologies. These are essential for making soft weaves from the rather rough fibres of the short staple cotton. Khamir also offers a platform for textile craftspeople at all stages of the process – from cultivation to spinning, dyeing and weaving – to exchange ideas amongst themselves as well as with traders so that they can market their textiles. In this context, contact was made with the Dutch label Karigar, which is committed to preserving old textile techniques and supporting Indian craftspeople – mostly women when it comes to textile craftwork. The first results of this cooperation are these curtains made from kala cotton. They are completely made in Kutch, from start to finish. The yarn is spun by hand on the traditional Indian spinning wheels called charkhas and woven on hand looms. The slightly translucent fabric has a somewhat coarser and slightly irregular appearance. The mottled grey stripe 80 cm wide is produced by using anthracite-coloured cotton yarn in the weft. The curtains are also tailored locally, in Kutch.
Article Number 17010
Note: The curtain is produced 100% from manual work: the dyeing, weaving and finishing are done by hand. Because this is a handcrafted product, slight irregularities in the weave should not be regarded as defects.
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