Between the Selvedges

There is a hum in the AMMA workshop. It is the rattle of the winding wheel, the clatter of the loom shuttle, the simmering dye baths in the kitchen and all the footsteps and voices in between. All of this activity comes to form in the plant dyed textiles of beautiful colour which Amma is known for.  

Madder natural dye vat


Witnessing this, it felt only natural to consider how to create a collection which used  every centimetre of this beautiful fabric. Understanding the time, energy and personalities that have brought something into being makes you feel something more from the cloth in your hands. On a more practical note, the value of the workshop and the business sits in that cloth and so to waste it is literally to throw away money.  

When we discussed it all together, Josie brought to the fore the appreciation of the physical resources that have gone into the cloth, in particular, water. This really spoke to the AMMA women. The preciousness of water. How sensitive are we to this? While the water used in AMMA’s textile production is very small compared with that of large scale textile manufacture, it is all relative. Making use of all of the fabric in the creation of the AMMA collection, without wastage, would respect the value of that water.  

The usual route to garment production would start with the design sketches, then proceed to the drafting of patterns, followed by a lay plan (the plan for the way the pattern is laid out on the fabric). When the pattern is laid on the fabric and cut out, all the negative space around the pattern pieces is waste.  


This wasn’t the right approach for Amma. So it became natural to turn the usual order  of events on its head and start the whole process with the cloth itself. From then on I  had to find the design between the borders of the selvedges. Leaving nothing behind.  

On the second day of my stay with the AMMA workshop I started a toile for the  collection. A toile is an experimental prototype, like a three dimensional sketch, that  you then adjust and alter to develop a finalised design. Collecting together various  scraps of avocado pink cloth and laying them over the female form of the mannequin… something started to take shape. This idea would later become the Roja blouse. That  same day, two of the youngest of the Amma team were creating wonders in the form of twisted yarn that later became the jewellery in the collection. These were the  magical beginnings!  


Zero waste pattern cutting


I would measure and sketch, and measure again. Drape on the mannequin, map it all  out. Sit in the wicker chair by the door with rulers and pencils creating scale plans  while the workshop hummed. With one garment toile in production and colour  sampling underway, we were straight on to another idea.  

Weeks passed by and every day was an important milestone, a foundation step for the  next. Finding shapes within the cloth that wasted nothing at all but took on a variety  of forms, from dresses to head scarves, was stimulating and hugely rewarding. This  approach called for a production methodology and demanded accuracy and  consistency in all of the tasks, from cutting, to dyeing, to stitching and pressing. Every  person's work intertwines with the next and all of the team are dependent on each  other’s efforts and timing. This has led to more purposeful, careful work and  communication between the women in their day to day. The unforeseen advantages of  working with a zero waste approach unfolded before us and continue to evolve.

Written by Isabella Goggin.

Photography by Sasha Azbel and Lucy Jasmine.