Making Clothes from Scratch

After the sewing machine industrial revolution people have got the skill to sew clothes at home. You know we make new clothes for the New Year Yeah every woman they learn to do it, we learn to do sewing when we’re young. Because, before you’re married, you have to prepare to make all the clothes. And when you get married you have to make your own clothes and you have to make for your own children so then everyone has to learn very young. The hemp, we start it from the plant so we usually grow the plant for about 3 months. So they grow very high, they’re like 2 metres high or can be 3 metres high.

And after 3 months we cut down and we take the leaves away and then we bring the stem to dry for about 10 days or could be more than 10 days in the sun So we peel off the skin and we use the skin to make clothes. So then, sometimes you walk in the street and you see a lot of women and they have like the hemp strings in the front and they keep joining and work when they walk.

Because they say when you sit you have a lot of things to do at home, so when you go out and you’re going to walk like 1 or 2 hours, or 3 hours you always have the hemp with you and joining it the same time that you walk. We have to join it one by one, thread it together and do it one by one to be a very long one. So after we have like 5 or 6 kilos, or 4 kilos to be for one loom So you have to join for the whole year. And then after we finish joining we will have like a spinning wheel to thread everything And then we’ll bring it to boil with the fire ash in the big wok for about 3 days. And then the ash will make the hemp colors going out and then it will be very soft and white color. And then after that we’ll bring it to put it on the loom and then we start to weave and get the cloth. And then we will start to dye the cloth in the indigo blue, in the indigo dye We need to dye them for like 4-6 months. So then after the dye then you start to make the new clothes. And then we do this embroidery. We have to do this by hand over the clothes You know every year we have to prepare new clothes for New Year. So you have to start from the beginning to the end and then again beginning Never rest.

So the richness, the skill set required, almost everybody really from the age of 15, 16 up who is interested in textiles, learns. The entire society is riddled with artisans. It’s not like you have a few people who are skilled. Almost entire villages are skilled and it’s just incredible. And it’s an absolutely intrinsic element of culture. You know, the language is not a written language. So through the textiles we can see the history. You can understand about different symbols to see their daily life and also their ancestors and everything like that. Is this something for us?” We had ladies on the stairs this morning, I was talking to guests and they were busy sewing while they had half an hour free.

They must finish their clothing before New Year. They’re not doing it as a show. It’s because they feel compelled to have the new clothing and they want that sense of pride when they finish. And that’s why when we discussed about New Year, the women with other women, men with women and vice versa, everyone is expressing appreciation of other people’s clothes. And I don’t think we have an equivalent. Perhaps when everyone wears nice clothes at New Year or Christmas but I don’t think we express delight in other people’s clothes.

We don’t look at other people, beyond, “That’s a nice outfit where did you buy that from?” That’s the limit of where the conversation can stop. How is it made? Who made it? How long did it take? What does that mean? What fabrics have you used? We can’t have those conversations. Our choice of fabrics, particularly the throwaway nature of what we are doing more now, means that that isn’t part of our culture anymore. And I believe it used to be. Well, there’s no doubt it used to be. Every year, every year, this time of year it’s slow and everyone’s fine and then the last few weeks everyone’s busy staying up at all hours, sewing in the middle of the night with a head torch, trying desperately stressed to finish their clothing.

Every year’s the same, isn’t it? Yeah. So that means there’s a real sense of pride, they really, they don’t want to be the one that didn’t make their traditional clothing.

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