We have sold hand-woven cotton tea towels in Europe and N. America for many years. They are a great utilitarian product and are made to a high quality and sell in volume. Then this year a highly valued customer wanted something more absorbent.
Years ago, our products would have gone straight from the weaving workshops to MESH and out to the customers. Now, for a number of customers, we have to preshrink our handloom fabrics and then sew them. Pre-shrinking, and now improving absorbency, has to be done commercially. The hand-woven fabric comes to Delhi and we pile it into our vehicle and head off to the commercial companies that offer pre-shrinking and other processes. To make the fabric more absorbent we may need to use chemicals we haven’t used before, and we have yet to understand the environmental impact of that process. Almost all these things are possible, but they create an environmental footprint that was not there before and they also increase the price, part of which goes now not just to shipping agents (as before) but also to commercial companies.
There is always a tension between sustainability and customer demand. Now we have the additional concern of rising prices. Cotton prices are rising all the time, before it was a seasonal price rise but in the last couple of years the price has remained high. Organic cotton we source from south India and shipping charges by road have shot up and now we need to add new processes, will our customers still want to buy from us? These would all be issues for regular traders but often they can benefit from economies of scale which is not available to small scale producers of the kind with whom MESH works.
So we juggle, look at different counts of threads and different reeds and warp sizes all of which can affect the final price and we try and please our customers all of whom are precious to us. There remains though the issue of sustainability vs. customer demand, these are challenging times.
MESH buys from weavers in KUKA and Little Flower which are two leprosy colonies in North. India and also from Aharam in S. India. KUKA dyes all the yarn themselves and we hope will be teaching someone from Little Flower soon. Aharam uses only organic yarns and gets their yarn dyed commercially. They all weave on these handlooms operating the heddle with peddles and pulling the shuttle across with the tug of rope at eye level. That they are able to produce standardized high quality is something we are very proud of. The workers are paid piece rates and manage their family affairs with a steady income, we need to keep our customers satisfied to keep them employed.
If you are in India, you can buy these amazing hand-woven products from
MESH shop, No.5, Local Shopping Centre, Uday Park. See Map
Online from meshonlinestore.com
We are here to please you, our suppliers, MESH and the precious earth.