'Responsible Consumption and Production' : The Return of the Handloom
Nuwara Eliya, a town in Sri Lanka’s central highlands, and the surrounding villages once had an active hand weaving industry but in the last five to ten years it has died out almost completely. The main reason being that there is no market for the goods. The influx of cheaper synthetic fabrics has influenced trends and provided wider variety at a more accessible price point. In an area where disposable income is little, women are opting for the cheaper alternative, unknowingly contributing to the decline of a culturally-celebrated art form.
We believe that the benefits of hand weaving far outweigh that of machine weaving.
Hand weaving provides livelihoods in rural locations. For every handloom replaced by a machine loom approximately three jobs are lost in the local community.
Hand weaving is carbon neutral. The looms don’t require electricity to function; they rely purely on human power.
As handlooms do not require electricity it makes them perfect for rural production in areas that often experience power outages.
It preserves cultural indigenous heritage and traditional methods of textile production - skills that are often passed down through generations.
The process produces high-quality handmade cloth that bears the marks of its maker. It allows for flexibility within the design and manufacturing process and can achieve greater retail value in global markets.
Our journey to incorporating hand weaving into the AMMA process has been there from the start. For us to expand our output we needed to make the transition from dyeing the fabric, to dyeing the yarn and then weaving this into fabric. However, it’s taken us two years to get to this point. Securing funding, finding adequate workshop space, locating and purchasing handlooms and employing a local teacher - many elements needed to unite in order to make this dream happen.
This month we welcome Mary, our most experienced member of staff, to our team. We tracked her down through a number of coincidental circumstances. Mary has 30 years of weaving experience and used to teach in many of the weaving centres in the area before they closed down. She has been out of work for a while and it is the biggest joy to offer her a job as ‘Head of Weaving’ at AMMA. Over the last few weeks Mary has been working with us to set the machines up. During her interview she told me, “You design it, I can do it.” I nearly cried.
Our hope is that in the coming months we will be producing rolls of handwoven, naturally-dyed fabrics that sustain the livelihoods of the eleven women we employ. We would love to see designers, brands and consumers switch to using fabrics like ours that are biodegradable, non toxic and have a lower carbon footprint and water usage.
You, reading this, have already shown us that there is a place for social enterprises like AMMA within the fashion and textile industry. We believe in the coming years we will make a bigger impact and challenge the current unsustainable structures.
Hop over to our shop for more information about our range of handwoven fabrics.