EFF CORRESPONDENT SARAH MURPHY
The thought of Yak, Merino, Angora and sheep wool had definitely not entered my mind as I sat baking in the 43 degree heat of the plains. But now happily in the mountains, I can say I am back to my old obsession of collecting locally produced textiles, socks, hats and slippers the list is endless.
After comparing prices of pashmina, yak wool, yak wool blend and the like, my eye and even my boyfriends became somewhat refined. We were looking for fully hand made shawls, no machine work, high quality hand weaving, whether the pattern was reversible or not or whether the seller knew the valley of which the embroidery symbolised.
Bhuttico - A Co-operative of Weavers, based in the beautiful North Indian State
of Himachal Pradesh.
I came across Bhuttico, a trademark for Bhutti weavers Co-operative Society. Which sold high quality hand made shawls, stoles, mufflers blankets etc produced by local Kullu men and women. I had always wondered what a factory of this kind looked like and here was my chance to find out.
Mr. Ramesh, is the General Manager of Bhuttico based in Kullu, he explained a great deal to me about the Co-op, its history and how it functions. It started out with just 12 members in 1944 and now in 2009 there are 400 plus members including weavers, technical, admin and marketing. Bhuttico’s objective is to strengthen a weaker section of the community through economic and social development. With five principles including: open and voluntary membership, fair distribution of profit between all, democratic control and cooperative education among members.
To start a co-operative there needs to be a minimum of 10 members with a specific objective. Weavers can join the Co-op voluntarily provided they are; over 18 years, with no criminal charges, and of sound mind. Rather like joining a bank they need to have resided in Kullu area for 6 months plus and have no former Bankruptcy claims. This is all according to the OHP Co-operative Societies Act 1968 and Co-operative Society Rules 1971. If any of the above changes and the weaver becomes unsound of mind, for example then they will cease to be a member of the Co-op.
Concerning Raw materials, I guess I was naive to think that just because the products were produced by hand, using minimal power; that the supply chain would be sustainable also. Turns out the Merino Wool is sourced from Australia and New Zealand, which accounts for 56% of all required material. Bhuttico does not have any specific relationship with merino suppliers and demand depends completely on market trend. Each year raw materials are sampled from the competitive market, and the Co-ops analysts run a total of 14 test for; Purity, Twist, Finesse, Colour Fastness, and Abrasion to name a few. They even test for Azo -Free material after consumer demand from Germany markedly. The other 44% covering; Angora from Rabbits, Pashmina from Goat and the wonderful Yak wool from the wonderful Yak, is sourced from India.
Yaks rule, I saw one and it walked like a cowboy it had so much hair. Only the yak wool retains its original shades of greys and creams, and is hand spun on site, which is great. The rest of the wool is bought pre dyed and pre-spun, so there goes another idyllic thought of this Co-operative taking care of the dying and spinning to produce these fine handmade shawls. Another bubble popped when I found out the ladies in the mountains working on their old homemade handlooms pop down the shop to buy their wools.
Full Power weaving! Check out these awesome hand woven socks, slippers and shawl. Read the next article for more about Production, Pay, Monitoring and The Future.
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