A Behind the Scenes Look at Textile Production
by Harvard Extension Environmental Club member Kate Bauer
In anticipation of HEEC’s upcoming green exchange event: “TheTrue Cost Documentary Screening + Panel on Sustainable Fashion", I wanted to share my experiences with trying to understand some of the history and craftsmanship behind textiles. I volunteered with two different women’s organizations that focus on promoting local customs and fair wages for members of their communities. In Guatemala, I took part in the process of backstrap weaving, and in Ghana I learned how to batik. The organizations are called Trama Textiles and Global Mamas, respectively.
A backstrap loom is a “simple” device that attaches to a fixed point (a wall, a tree, etc.) on one end and encircles the backside of the weaver on the other end. While men in Guatemala may operate typical foot pedal looms, the women use backstrap looms. Because of the nature of the set up, the width of the finished panel is approximately the width of the weaver’s hips. Pieces can be sewn together to create larger swaths of fabric for clothing, baby wraps, bags, and more. These pictures show my initial pattern set-up and then loom preparations for the actual weaving.
Batik is a dyeing process using wax resistance as a means to create layers of color on a piece of cloth. Fabric is initially dyed with the pattern’s lightest color. A hot wax stamp is applied where the artist wants that lightest color to remain in the finished product. The fabric is then dyed with the next darkest color in the pattern, and the wax process may be repeated. Later, the wax is boiled off revealing the layers of color and pattern that had been applied in stages. These photos depict my bi-colored batik: first dyed blue, then stamped, re-dyed green, boiled, and finally hung to dry.
About the Author:
Kate Bauer holds a certificate in Environmental Policy and International Development and enjoys reading and traveling to understand the geopolitical implications of the textile industry. She hopes to spend a little time working on an organic cotton farm someday and is happy to be a part of the HEEC community.