Why we’re in business…
Flowing against the tide of fast fashion, Freeset Fabrics celebrates the heritage of hand-loom weaving in West Bengal, India. We provide fairly paid work, through the creation of beautiful scarves, for women at risk of being trafficked into prostitution. Weaving is almost as old as the human race. The art of entwining grasses and leaves to create woven fabric was discovered centuries ago. West Bengal has a long tradition of producing exquisite textiles, including cotton, silk and jute for export world-wide. Each of our scarves is hand-woven on a traditional frame loom using hand-spun natural yarn dyed with azo -free dyes. The once dominant strand of vulnerability for the women working with us is now being intertwined with new strands of choice and opportunity. Together we are reviving and strengthening an inspiring tradition, weaving a new fabric of hope and freedom.
Vision & values
We want Freeset Fabrics to work against the injustice and exploitation faced by women in the majority world. While acknowledging that employment is not the only answer to the troubles of women in rural India, it can play a significant role in effecting positive change. As a customer, you can contribute to this transformative change, by purchasing the beautiful scarves made by the women of Freeset Fabrics.
Beyond the loom
Our future plans go beyond scarves. By combining traditional and contemporary weaving techniques we will produce fabrics by the metre as well as home and fashion accessories. By adding more value through printing, dyeing, embroidery and sewing techniques we will also create jobs for an increasing number of women from communities where they are vulnerable to being trafficked into prostitution.
As detailed in the lookbook, all Freeset Fabrics scarves are woven using natural fibres and dyed with azo free dyes. The team is working on the supply chain to be able to provide more information on the provenance of the materials used. Until raw materials are ordered in larger quantities that is more of a challenge.
Organic and Fair Trade yarns are high on our list for at least some of what we would like to be able to offer- so are natural dyes. We are not using silk in any of our scarves as yet –but when we do, we may be able to include a type of silk yarn called eri (peace silk). We realise that this will be important to many clients for custom products as well as to retail customers.
Handloom fabric, by its very nature is very different to machine or power-loom fabric . It takes a lot longer to produce, going through many processes and the work of many hands, before it is ready for distribution.
We are planning to create a little booklet (in November), similar to the one that FBA produced, which has more information about how our scarves are created. This booklet will be available as an additional resource, at a small extra cost, to help with promotion of the scarves. We are also working on options for packaging, which may help promote sales, particularly when they are being purchased as gifts.
Freeset Fabrics is able to produce scarves (with minimum order quantities) to meet customer requirement. Other products will also become available next year, which could also be to customer specification. We are currently working on guidelines to help with designing and planning these custom orders, and will send them out when they are ready.
Each scarf comes with a label that includes the percentages of different yarn used and states’ “made in India”, as well as providing care instructions. This is a requirement for import in some countries. We have test-washed the scarves and are confident that they can be hand washed in cold water with a mild detergent, but we have chosen to recommend dry clean, as the beauty of the scarves is likely to be preserved longer by dry cleaning. Our care labels are stitched on in such a way that they can easily be removed once the customer has the scarf. The Freeset labels are handstitched on securely and we hope they will be kept on and proudly displayed whenever the scarf is worn!
A few facts about woven textiles:
Warp The warp is the long thread that runs the length of the scarf and which can be tasselled. We can vary the texture of a scarf design by the way the warp is set up and ‘drafted’ - which is the order in which the threads are secured on the loom.
Weft The weft is the thread which is woven through the warp and depending on how the shafts of the loom are set, the yarn passes over or under one or more warp threads. We currently have our looms set up with 2 shafts, the simplest form of weaving that enables plain weave with minimal texture. Plain weave materials can be created with the same colour warp and weft or by using contrasting warp and weft colours (known as ‘shot’ weave) to create a beautiful shimmering effect, as with the pop collection and elegance purple.