The Making of Sevya’s Hand-Embroidered Cotton Tunics

Sevya’’s wholesale fair trade clothing collection includes an extensive range of beautifully hand-embroidered cotton tunics. These cotton tunics come in a range of colors and styles, and the classic white on white embroidered tunic is a very popular style that is always in fashion. The soft 100% cotton fabric with intricate hand embroidery makes these tunics an elegant and comfortable style for resort and summer wear.

Woman Artisan doing Embroidery for Fair Trade Tunics from India

Woman Embroidery Artisan

Women in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India do the hand embroidery for these tunics in their homes. The women often gather together at one home in their village, and do the embroidery together while socializing with one another. With the help of local organizations, the women also set up their own bank accounts and start saving money for themselves and their children. This creates profound changes in their lives, increasing their security as well as their self-confidence and pride in themselves and their work.

Fair Trade White Cotton Tunic with Hand Embroidery

Sevya’s Chikankari White Tunic

The women learn embroidery techniques from their mothers and grandmothers. This style of embroidery is known as “Chikankari” and is a form of shadow-work embroidery, where the embroidery is actually done on the reverse side of the sheer cotton fabric, creating a beautiful effect. There are 36 different types of stitches that are used for Chikankari embroidery and this embroidery style dates back hundreds of years, and is referenced in texts from the 3rd century B.C.

Block Printing in India for Hand Embroidered Cotton Tunics

Printing Embroidery Motif on Tunic with Wooden Block

The cotton tunics are first semi-stitched and then the design for the embroidery motif is hand block-printed. Once this is done, the tunics are delivered by bicycle to the women artisans’ homes in the villages. Each woman is given one tunic to embroider for every round of production: this means that when we order 1,000 tunics, a thousand different women are getting equal work and ongoing sustainable livelihood. For women artisans in these small villages in Northern India, this provides much-needed income that they can earn by doing the embroidery work in their homes whenever it is convenient for them.

Chikankari Embroidery for Fair Trade Cotton Tunics from India

Chikankari Embroidery

Each of Sevya’’s hand-embroidered tunics is truly a work of art, made with great skill, love, and dedication. Many people are involved in each aspect of the production:

  • » Stitching the tunic
  • » Carving the wooden blocks used for printing the design
  • » Block-printing the motif
  • » Doing the intricate hand embroidery
  • » Transporting the tunics by bicycle to and from the villages
  • » Washing and ironing the finished tunic.
Wooden Blocks used for Printing Embroidery Motif on Fair Trade Cotton Tunics

Wooden Blocks used for Printing Embroidery Motif

Sevya is dedicated to developing unique and beautiful products that showcase the rich artistic traditions of India and provide sustainable livelihood for the artisans and other people involved in each stage of the production. This greatly benefits the local economies in the villages and helps to ensure that these rich traditions will continue for many generations to come.

Women in India doing Hand Embroidery for Fair Trade Tunics

Women Artisans in Uttar Pradesh

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What is Fair Trade?

The long-standing image of business in popular culture is that of one small business owner gradually climbing his (and it is always “his”) way to the top, where he is then the owner of a large business that has significant impact on his employees, his customers and his community. However, an integral part of this image is missing—the producers of this business remain behind the scenes, and usually only come to mind as an afterthought. Producers commonly reside in developing or underdeveloped countries, and are criminally underpaid for their work.

woman artisan weaving fabric in India

Woman artisan weaves fabric for Sevya’s fair trade stuffed animals

Fair trade is a social movement that ensures one very simple thing: that producers and workers are paid fair prices for their product and labor. The movement strives to dispel the current air of the commercial market system, where profits are divided between numerous intermediaries. With fair trade, producers are prepaid for their services, and prices and payment terms are determined by an assessment of all economic, social and environmental factors, not simply by current market conditions. In addition to fair wages, sellers commit to a long-term trading partnership, as opposed to anonymous labor for an indeterminate period of time.

micro-finance with women in India

Women’s micro-finance group in India

The fair trade movement invests not only in the monetary well-being of workers, but the well-being of their communities as well. Fair trade devotes time and money in social programs to help improve the conditions of workers in developing countries, through education, health care, fighting poverty, improving the lives of women and children, and building a sustainable business while providing viable and marketable skills.

Sevya works with cooperatives and non-profit organizations throughout India to keep artisan traditions alive and sustainable. We are also dedicated to using organic natural dyes, helping to reduce the impact of chemical byproducts in the environment, as well as using ethically produced materials.

Fair trade blue cotton tunic

Sevya’s Asanga blue tunic is a bestseller

Our fair trade clothing, accessories and home furnishings are all handmade, using traditional crafts of block-printing, tie-dye, handloom and embroidery. Sevya’s products use 100% natural cotton, silk and wool, and incorporate artistic traditions that stem from indigenous cultures.

By buying retail and wholesale fair trade products, you help to:

  • Preserve Indigenous Cultures
  • Support Traditional Artisan Communities
  • Invest in Community-Based Development Programs
  • Safeguard Natural Resources
  • Protect the Earth from Exploitation & Pollution
Fair trade silk infinity scarf

Sevya’s Kalinda copper silk infinity scarf

Each purchase of a fair trade product directly benefits the producers and their communities, and contributes towards making the global economy more equitable and sustainable.

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Spotlight on GUJARAT

Gujarat, IndiaSevya works with talented artisans all over India, so we thought it’d be fun to tell you a little more about each of those regions. This month we’re shining a spotlight on Gujarat! Located in the Northwest part of the subcontinent, this vibrant and diverse state of 60 million people has been an important commercial marketplace since ancient times. Gujarat has the longest coastline in India and its numerous coastal trading centers include Lothal, one of the world’s oldest seaports (2400 BC).Ancient Lothal With such a long history of trade and commerce, it’s no surprise that Gujaratis are known for their entrepreneurial spirit. Written accounts by ancient trading partners from Greece, Rome, and Persia reference Guajarati’s tendency to be forward thinking and fearless when it comes to business. This trait is just as true today as it was a thousand years ago – Gujarat is one of the wealthiest states in India! Gujaratis are also known for their incredible skill at making beautiful handicrafts in the traditions of their ancestors.

Handicrafts and Textiles

Beginning Stages of BandhaniOne of the best-loved art forms in Gujarat is Bandhani, which originated 5,000 years ago. The term Bandhani is derived from the Sanskrit word bandha, which means “to tie.” Bandhani is an extremely intricate form of tie-dye in which the fabric is tied very tightly with thread at several different points, according to a motif that is printed on the fabric using carved wooden blocks. Blocks Reflecting NatureThe motifs usually pay homage to nature: the beauty of the surroundings, flowers, birds, mangos The placement and quantity of the knots, as well as the way the cloth is tied, determines the pattern when the fabric is opened. Sevya works with women bandhani artists in villages throughout Gujarat to create our beautiful range of fair trade tie-dyed scarves and sarongs. Another popular art form in Gujarat is Patola Weaving. Also known as Ikat, this ancient dyeing technique patterns textiles by employing a resist dyeing process similar to tie-dye on either the warp or weft fibres prior to dyeing. This is a technique employed in only two other regions worldwide, the Okinawa islands of Japan and the village of Tenganan in Bali. Traditionally many families practiced the art of Patola, creating textiles for royalty and aristocracy. But today this technique is only practiced by the Salvi family, who keep the production a close-guarded secret. Sevya has an extensive range of wholesale fair trade ikat scarves, which showcase the mastery of India’s Ikat weavers

Bandhani Scarves and Sarongs by Sevya

Ikat Scarves by Sevya

One of the most popular forms of embroidery in India An Artisan Doing Mirror Workis shisha or Abhla Bharat embroidery, otherwise known as mirror-work, where reflective surfaces are embedded into a pattern. Shisha, the Persian word for “glass,” originated in 17th century India, and quickly gained traction in a variety of countries, including Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and Indonesia. Amongst peoples living in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana, the shisha is tied to the front door to ward off evil eyes. Originally, artisans used mica for the reflective surfaces, though beetles, tin, silver, or coins were not unusual; this practice was abandoned however in exchange for hand-blown glass. Today, most mirror-work is done by machine, but you can still find “antique” shisha with hand-blown glass.

Festivals

Festivals are another important part of life in Gujarat. Uttarayan Kite FestivalThough they celebrate over two thousand festivals a year, few compare with the whimsical beauty of Uttarayan. Each year on January 14th, thousands of kites take to the sky, their strings held by both Gujarat locals and visitors from all across the subcontinent, as well as a bevy of international countries. The festival of Uttarayan is held to celebrate the turning of winter to summer, known as Makar Sankranti, and is considered to be one of the most important harvest days in India. Throughout Gujarat, skies will be littered with kites from before dawn until late at night, but no area is as breathtaking as Ahmedebad, host of the International Kite Festival, who receives both amateurs and masters alike to join in the celebration.

Navratri DancersAnother dazzling festival in India is the Navratri festival, held for ten days and nine nights in early October. Also known as Durga Puja, this epic festival celebrates the triumph of good over evil— dedicated to the annihilation of the demon Mahishasura by the mother goddess Durga, the festival also celebrates motherhood and the bonds of family, most trying to return home during the festivities. Navratri is celebrated by nightly feasts and dances, most popular being the traditional Gharba, in which two small wooden sticks (dandiyas) are hit by another person’s stick to another’s. The group doing the Gharba forms a circle in which there is a shrine of the goddess, along with a Garbo (earthenware pot) with a silver coin inside. Navratri today may include more disco dandiya, especially in large cities such as Mumbai. If you’re looking to celebrate this stunning festival, in 2014 Navratri will start on Holi FestivalSeptember 25th and end on October 3rd. In an explosive blast of color, Holi is one of the most exciting holidays in the Hindu calendar. Celebrated on the last full moon of the lunar month, people throw brightly colored powders at friends and strangers to revel in the arrival of spring. In addition to celebrating the renaissance of spring, Holi commemorates Krishna’s high-spirited pranks, as well as letting their inhibitions drop to simply play. One of the most important holidays  in India, Holi has spread throughout the world as a celebration of love and color.

Diwali, or the “festival of lights,” is one of the most well-known Hindu festivals, as well as Diwali: Festival of Lightsone of the most significant. Diwali signifies the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, hope over despair and good over evil. The main festival night typically falls between mid-October and mid-November, coinciding with the darkest new moon night of the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartik. Though the preparations for Diwali take days, on the festival night, Hindus dress up in their best clothes, light diyas (lamps and candles), and participate in family puja, or prayers, to Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity. After the prayers, there are fireworks and a feast, as well as exchanging gifts with friends and family. Even though Diwali is the celebration most foreigners are familiar with, there is actually five days of the celebration: Dhanteras is the first day, in which cleaning and decorating are completed (as well as being a major shopping day); Naraka Chaturdasi is the second day, where colorful decorations called rangoli are made, and families prepare homemade sweets for Diwali, the third day; Padwa, the fourth day, celebrates spousal love, and the final day, Bhai Duj, celebrates the bonds between brother and sister.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sustainable Fair Trade Fashion

Sevya’s fair trade scarves and embroidered tunics are handmade and eco-friendly. We work directly with artisan cooperatives throughout India to help preserve the endangered art forms and provide much needed marketing avenues for these artisan communities. Sevya conducts workshops with each cooperative to develop designs that showcase these rich artistic traditions of hand weaving, block printing, tie-dye, batik, and embroidery through contemporary and fashionable designs in vibrant and fresh colors.

Fair Trade Silk Infinity Scarf in Magenta

Hand Woven Kalinda Silk Infinity Scarf

Sevya, a fair trade wholesale company, is committed to nourishing the traditional techniques used in each art form, which makes both the products and our relationships with the artisan cooperatives both sustainable and long lasting. Each scarf and tunic is truly a work of art, and each stage of production-from dyeing the yarn, spinning the yarn, setting the looms, weaving and hand tasseling-is done by different artisans. This provides a reliable and steady source of income for all cooperative members in each village. By maintaining the traditional hand techniques in each art form, Sevya employs thousands of artisans throughout India and ensures there is the least amount of impact on the environment.

For our handloom scarves, no electricity is used in any stage of the production. Fixing the dye to yarn is done on wood fires. Ironing is done with coal irons, and washing is all by hand. Our herbal medicinal options use grapefruit extract instead of bleach for whitening and cleaning of the yarn. Bicycle pedal power is employed for spinning the yarn prior to weaving. Weaving is done on pit looms, with foot and hand operated pedal power. Finally, tasseling is also done entirely by hand.

Sevya’s commitment to sustainability does not stop with zero electricity use. Our herbal dyed and organic cotton options offer the ultimate in eco-friendly materials and process, with significant advantages for both producers and consumers alike. The highest standards of weaving excellence are met in an impressive line of handmade, fair trade organic cotton scarves with Ayurvedic, herbal medicinal dyes. Our Ayurveda Indigo Scarf features a light and lovely weave pattern with natural organic cotton stripes offsetting the soft indigo hues. Indigo is an herbal remedy for stress, anxiety and depression and these medicinal benefits are transmitted through the skin pores when one wears this beautiful scarf. Combined with the aesthetic qualities and softness against the skin, the medicinal effects of indigo complete a perfect package for yourself and the world. Other dye options such as sandalwood, galangal, neem and haritaki cover a wider range of medicinal effects and these scarves also include silk and a variety of hand weave patterns.

Artisan in India Preparing Loom for Fair Trade Hand-Woven Scarves

Artisan Setting Yarn Spindles for Hand Woven Scarves

The fact that these wholesale scarves employ organic cotton and herbal dyes creates very positive benefits for artisan communities who produce the items. Sustainable production in villages means that artisans are not forced to move to cities where low paid factory jobs are available. Numerous studies in India have shown severe effects to the health of textile workers who are constantly exposed to toxic dyes.

There is a clear, night and day comparison between sustainable, cooperative artisan communities and urban, factory-based realities. Sevya seeks to empower communities to create healthy, thriving cooperatives where all workers and their families can create lasting, sustainable income with no debt to anyone. In contrast, without such options workers are forced to migrate to densely populated cities to work in desperate, poverty-creating situations. Workers who migrate to cities find atrocious living conditions in slums. Basic public services are extremely haphazard if existent at all. Slums lack clean water, garbage removal and health care options—a terrifying combination. In addition, numerous studies have pointed out the severe effects of exposing workers and their families to the toxicity of the dyes and poor environmental practices in factories. Clearly, healthier options should be nurtured, and fair trade practices ensure such alternatives can thrive.

To these clear and powerful benefits we can add the many benefits to communities of artisans who can realize a sustainable future. The weaving cooperatives allow entire communities a stability and prosperity unheard of in factory models. Consumers who purchase high quality, fair trade scarves and fair trade clothing are choosing sustainability over the notion that relationships and products can and should be disposable. Consider this: when you make something of high quality that will be cherished, not abused and thrown away quickly, you have made a practical item that deserves respect, earns its keep and is not replaced. We need to nurture this concept with the material world we create as well as in our relationships.

Fair Trade Organic Cotton Scarf with Ayurvedic Dyes

Organic Cotton Scarf with Medicinal Ayurvedic Dyes

We at Sevya are inspired by many who do good work in the world; in turn, we hope to also inspire and support effective efforts throughout the world. We invite all who are curious about our work to join us in support of these worthy efforts.

Fair Trade products are unique to the places they come from and the people who make them. Art forms such as hand weaving, hand embroidery, block printing, and tie-dye have unique designs and techniques in each region, and the Fair Trade products reflect the people, their culture, and their local environment.

Hand Embroidery in India for Fair Trade Cotton Bedspread

Artisan Doing Hand Embroidery for Bedspread

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The Making of a Sevya Fair Trade Scarf

Sevya’s hand-woven scarves and shawls are entirely handmade and each piece is the beautiful culmination of a process that involves many intricate steps, each performed by an artisan who is highly skilled in their craft. The entire process is done by hand and without the use of any electricity, which means that there is very little carbon footprint involved and many people are able to earn a sustainable livelihood from this handiwork.

The first step in this process is starching and degumming the yarn. For cotton scarves, the yarn is first starched so that it is easier to weave on the pit looms. This starch solution is made from rice that is boiled in water. For silk scarves, the silk yarn is first degummed, which allows for the threads to be more easily separated and aligned properly for the loom.

Silk Yarn for Handmade Indian Scarves

Artisan degumming the silk yarn.

Once the yarn is starched or degummed, it is sent to another group of artisans for dyeing. These artisans are masters of preparing and fixing the dyes, and it is done over a wood fire. The yarn is repeatedly boiled in the dye mixture until the exact color is attained.

Indian Artist Prepares Dyes for Making Hand Woven Scarf

Mixing the dyes

Indian Artist Dyeing the Silk Yarn for Fair Trade Scarf

Artisan dyeing the silk yarn over a wood fire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After dyeing, the yarn is hung on lines outside in the sun for drying.

Natural Silk Yarn for making Fair Trade Scarf

Silk yarn is dried in the sun after dyeing

Once it is dry, the fine yarn is rolled onto a small barrel using a spinning wheel. Women typically do this stage of the process, as it is something they can easily do in their own homes in between other household work.

Cotton Yarn Spinning for Handmade Scarf

Artisan spinning cotton yarn onto barrels

 

These small bundles of yarn are then reeled onto bobbins using a spinning wheel or “charkha” and a bicycle wheel. Both men and women are involved in this step of the process.

Spinning Cotton Yarn for Handmade Scarf

Artisan spinning cotton yarn onto bobbins

Once the bobbins are made, they are arranged in a tall wooden frame as per the design of the scarf, and the threads are then connected to the drumming barrel.

Bobbins of Thread set for Weaving Fair Trade Scarf

Artisan setting the frame with bobbins

 

The warp of the scarf is then set on the drumming barrel and the fine yarn is combed and netted so each thread is separated for the hand-weaving process.

Indian artists Preparing Yarn for Cotton Scarf

Artisans comb and net the yarn for setting the warp

The loom is then set and the weaver uses a combination of foot pedals, throwing the thread shuttle, and hand levers to adjust the weft as per the design of the scarf. These artisans come from a long lineage of master weavers and have tremendous skill and knowledge in their craft. Only they possess the skills required to make such intricate and delicate weaves using these fine natural yarns.

Indian Weaver making Fair Trade Scarf

Weaver making Sevya’s Indira Silk and Wool Scarf

Once the scarf is woven, it is removed from the loom and an artisan braids the ends to create the beautiful tassels.

Indian Artist Braids Tassels for Fair Trade Scarf

Artisan braids tassels at ends of cotton scarf

The final steps are washing the scarf in multiple washes to remove any starch and to bring out the inherent soft texture of the natural yarns. The scarf is then ironed, packed, and ultimately delivered to many shops throughout the world. It is a rich and beautiful process, involving many hands and hearts and sharing the ancient hand-loom traditions of India with people around the globe.

Handmade Silk and Cotton Stripes Scarf from India

Sevya’s Samita Stripes Scarf drying in the sun after washing

Sevya’s fair trade, handmade scarves are more than beautiful fashion statements—they are a vital link to our human heritage of respecting and communicating what is sacred through art.  Each handmade scarf is a treasure that conveys what is real and lasting, and is vital to the well being of our planet and our selves. We honor this treasure every time we wear one of these beautiful handmade scarves.

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Spread the Holiday Cheer by Buying Fair Trade Gifts

As we get closer to the holiday season here in America, it is a good opportunity for us to reflect on the choices we make when we select gifts for spreading holiday cheer. Purchasing fair trade gifts helps to spread that cheer far beyond the confines of our own country, and makes a very tangible difference in the lives of artisans in developing countries throughout the world.

Fair Trade Artisan in India

Embroidery Artisan Making a Bedspread for Sevya

When we choose to purchase a beautiful handmade, fair trade gift item, we are choosing to invest in a more sustainable and healthy international system of trade; we are choosing to invest in people, in their creativity, and in their human dignity.  In sharing these beautiful gifts with those we love, we are helping to spread a deeper understanding of global connectivity based on caring for one another and for our environment.

According to the Fair Trade Federation, “Fair trade is an approach to business and to development based on dialogue, transparency, and respect that seeks to create greater equity in the international trading system.” Fair Trade companies and organizations work directly with artisans and farmers in developing countries to market their goods in the global arena.  Fair Trade is about building and maintaining relationships between producers and consumers, and bringing great handmade products to the market while following these fair trade principles:

  • Fair Trade means fair pay and working conditions for artisans and producers.

Fair Trade products are made in safe and healthy working conditions, where artisans receive a fair price and have a voice in how their workplace is run. Rather than migrating to urban slums to work in factories, these artisans are able to stay with their families in their native villages, keeping their culture and communities intact.

  • Fair Trade means sustainable local economies.

Fair Trade gives farmers and artisans control of their own future. They can build their own businesses, rather than working for a middleman, and the profits stay in their communities and go back into their businesses.

  • Fair Trade is better for the environment.

Fair Trade supports sustainable practices that minimize our environmental footprint. Most large-scale commercial production creates massive pollution issues for developing countries. Fair Trade companies like Sevya work hard to invest in traditional methods of production that reduce the amount of toxic chemicals in the environment. A good example of this is reviving the traditions of using organic natural dyes, which helps to reduce the impact of chemical byproducts in the environment, and in the garments that we wear.

Herbal Dyes from India

Turmeric is a Medicinal Herbal Dye used for Golden Color on Cotton Fabric

  • Fair Trade means higher quality goods.

Sevya Artisans take pride in their work. The artisans use methods, techniques and knowledge that date back thousands of years. Fair Trade products are handmade, which translates into closer attention to detail and higher-quality products. You will recognize this superior quality when you examine any of the beautiful handmade scarves, jewelry and fair trade clothing in Sevya’s collection.

  • Fair Trade is safe.

Fair Trade actively promotes integrated farm management systems that improve soil fertility and preserve valuable ecosystems, and limit the use of harmful agrochemicals that present dangers to farmers’ health. That means organically grown cotton and naturally cultivated silk are used in the creation of our many textile products.

  • Fair Trade supports communities.

By working through cooperative structures, Fair Trade artisans and small farmers are able to invest Fair Trade earnings in their communities, improving housing, healthcare, and schools. Sevya artisans are part of cooperatives and non-profit organizations and most often, the entire village is involved in some aspect of the craft–from dyeing the yarn to setting the loom, weaving and hand tasseling the scarf.

  • Fair Trade is trade artisans can count on.

Fair Trade is committed to strengthening direct partnerships between buyers and producers. These partnerships provide an avenue for buyers to purchase quality products from people they trust, and offer a sustainable and reliable way for farmers, artisans and their families to improve their livelihood. Every purchase of a Sevya product directly benefits these artisan groups and enables them to pass their rich traditions on to the next generation.

  • Fair Trade connects you with other cultures.

Fair Trade products are unique to the places they come from and the people who make them. Art forms such as hand weaving, hand embroidery, block printing, and tie-dye have unique designs and techniques in each region, and the Fair Trade products reflect the people, their culture, and their local environment.

  • Fair Trade means what you buy matters.

By choosing Fair Trade products, you are not only accessing high quality products, you are making a difference in the lives of the people who grow the food you eat and the goods you use. Fair Trade empowers over 1.3 million people around the world, about 30 percent of whom are women.

Microfinance and Women in India

Women’s Self Help Group in Jharkhand India

When you choose to buy Fair Trade products, you become part of the change you want to see in the world.  As the concept of Fair Trade grows, we will see a dynamic shift in our societies, with people everywhere being treated with dignity and respect, and being paid a fair wage for their labors and artistic abilities. The cycle of poverty can be broken through the application of Fair Trade principles, and every purchase of a Fair Trade Gift helps to spread true holiday cheer around the world.

 

 

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Being The Change We Wish to See in the World

Gandhi and Charkha

Mahatma Gandhi Spinning Yarn on the Charkha

Today is Gandhi Jayanti, which is the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi. At Sevya, we draw much inspiration from the wisdom and visionary leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. He was a beacon of political, economic and spiritual freedom, and spearheaded a non-violent movement for India’s self-reliance and independence.

It is important to understand that Gandhi’s vision of freedom was not merely that of political independence, but one embedded deeper into the socioeconomic and spiritual fabric of human society. The “Charkha” or spinning wheel represents Gandhi’s movement for India’s self reliance and he encouraged people throughout India to stop buying cotton fabric made in British textile mills and go back to producing their own cotton, which is the hand spun, hand-woven cotton fabric known as “Khadi”.

Indian Artisan Spinning Cotton Yarn

Woman Artisan Spinning Yarn on a Charkha for Sevya’s Fair Trade Scarves

As Gandhi says, “Charkha is the symbol of the nation’s prosperity and therefore freedom. It is a symbol not of commercial war but of commercial peace. It bears not a message of ill-will towards the nations of the earth but of goodwill and self-help. It will not need the protection of a navy threatening a world’s peace and exploiting its resources, but it needs the religious determination of millions to spin their yarn in their own homes as today they cook their food in their own homes…For every revolution of the wheel spins peace, goodwill and love. And with all that, inasmuch as the loss of it brought about India’s slavery, its voluntary revival with all its implications must mean India’s freedom.”

For him, the spinning of the Charkha represented a deeper philosophy based on:

• A spiritual means to identifying ourselves with others by ruling out exclusiveness, inculcating humility and casting out pride completely
• An economic tool of regeneration to end unemployment by removing idleness, and to prevent exploitation by building self-sustenance in the face of increasing economic inequality
• A political symbol of hope and of a sustainable society built on foundations of dignity

Sevya is committed to imbibing this philosophy of the Charkha in our everyday lives. The natural silk, cotton and wool yarn used to make Sevya’s collection of fair trade scarves is hand spun and then hand-woven on pit looms by artisan communities throughout villages in India. Our fair trade stuffed animals are also made from hand spun, hand-woven cotton fabric. This entirely handmade process provides sustainable livelihood to thousands of artisans throughout rural India and Sri Lanka and ensures a healthy and growing local economy. The spinning wheel represents a fundamental axis of village life, where local cottage industries are intact and thriving, and where human dignity, as well as the earth’s natural resources, are cherished and maintained.

Hand spun cotton for fair trade products

Woman artisan in Sri Lanka spinning the yarn used for making Sevya’s Fair Trade Stuffed Animals

The global financial crisis of 2008-09, the socio-political movements such as Occupy Wall Street and Arab Spring, and the resurgence of global debate on climate change and ecological loss have all fundamentally ruptured the business order on which the world has functioned till date. There is a growing global awareness that there cannot be a return to “business-as-usual” practices, which are politically, socially, ecologically and economically unsustainable. It is time for a fundamental paradigm change – such as the one envisioned by Gandhi.
In his own words, “India’s destiny lies not along the bloody way of the west, of which she shows signs of tiredness, but along the bloodless way of peace that comes from a simple and godly life. India is in danger of losing her soul. She cannot lose it and live. She must not, therefore, lazily and helplessly say, ‘I cannot escape the onrush from the west.’ She must be strong enough to resist it for her own sake and that of the world.”

At Sevya, we are deeply committed to this change. Each purchase of a Sevya fair trade product supports equal opportunity, and more importantly, equal dignity for rural artisans and helps to ensure that India does not “lose her soul”.

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The Many Ways to Tie our Sharada Silk Scarf

Our Sharada Silk Scarf is a uniquely beautiful hand-woven scarf with a distinctive gathered weave design, using the finest natural silk. Due to its versatility and artistic flair, this pure silk scarf is one of the top selling designs in our wholesale scarves collection.

This scarf can be worn in many ways, including as a bolero vest.

Handmade Black Silk Scarf

Sevya’s Sharada Black Silk Scarf Tied as a Bolero Vest

By tying two of the ends in front, and tying the other two ends around in back, you can create a bolero vest. Here’s how:

Step 1 – Arrange the scarf around your shoulders, with tassel ends hanging down evenly in front.

Ways to Tie Handmade Silk Scarf

Step 1 for Tying as Bolero Vest

Step 2 – Tie the front tassels in a square knot.

Ways to Tie Silk Scarves

Step 2 for Tying as Bolero Vest

Step 3 – Tie the other tassel ends around in back. Tug gently into place around bust, and presto – bolero vest!

Ways to Tie Handmade Silk Scarves

Step 3 for Tying as Bolero Vest


Ways to Tie Silk Scarves

Sevya’s Sharada Silk Scarf Tied as Bolero Vest

This scarf can also be worn in a very simple style, over the shoulder – You can throw one end loosely over your shoulder:

Easy Ways to Tie Silk Scarves

Sharada Silk Scarf Tied Over the Shoulder Style

Step 1 – Place the scarf over your shoulders, with one end slightly longer than the other end.

Stylish Ways to Tie Fair Trade Silk Scarves

Step 1 for Draping Over the Shoulder

Step 2 – Take the longer end and throw it casually over the opposite shoulder. Let the tassels drape and dangle for full visual affect.

Simple Ways to Tie Silk Scarves

Step 2 for Over the Shoulder Style

Another striking style is tied close around the neck – You can tie the two ends together in various ways to create an elegant look:

Fresh Ways to Tie Silk Scarves

Sharada Mocha Silk Scarf Tied Close Around the Neck

Step 1 – Drape the scarf over your shoulders.

Ways to Tie Handmade Silk Scarf

Step 1 for Tying Close Around the Neck

Step 2 – Bring the inside tassel ends around your neck and tie together on one side.

Fresh Ways to Tie Silk Scarves for Women

Step 2 for Tying Close Around the Neck

Another beautiful style is the circular drape around the neck – you can drape it casually across your shoulders and let the ends hang down in front or in back:

Versatile Silk Scarf Draping

Sharada Silk Scarf in Circular Drape Around the Neck

Step 1 – Drape the scarf around your neck, letting the tassel ends hang down your back.

Interesting Ways to Tie Silk Scarves

Step 1 for Circular Drape Around the Neck

Step 2 – Bring the top tassels underneath the body of the scarf and around to the front. Let them hang down loosely in front.

Handmade Silk Scarf Styles

Step 2 for Circular Drape Around the Neck

One more way to tie our Sharada Silk Scarf is down the middle, which works well when wearing it with a jacket:

Fair Trade Scarves Ties in Fashionable Styles

Sharada Silk Scarf in Denim Blue Tied Down the Front

Step 1 –Drape over shoulders so that one side is shorter than the other.

Red Silk Scarves in Creative Styles

Step 1 for Tying Down the Middle

Step 2 – Now take the tassel ends of the shorter portion and tie them around and underneath the longer portion.

Creative Scarf Tying Styles for Handmade Silk Scarves

Step 2 for Tying Down the Middle

Our Sharada Silk scarf comes in a wide range of vibrant colors, making it a stunning accessory for any season. The natural silk fabric shimmers in the light, while the ruffle and gathered weave give it a textural quality and versatility unlike any other scarf design.

You can find all 16 color combinations on our website, along with many other handmade silk scarves.

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Batik Scarves & Sarongs

In our continued quest to create unique fair trade fashion for our customers, Sevya searches for the best artisan groups in India who are creating the finest handcrafted fabrics. On our most recent trip to India, we had the opportunity to spend time watching how these artisans create beautiful batik designs on cotton and silk fabric and we developed a new collection of batik scarves and sarongs.

Purple Batik Sarong

Cotton Batik Sarong by Sevya Handmade

Batik translates to ‘wax writing’, ‘to dot’, or ‘drawing with a broken line’. It is a way of decorating cloth by covering a part of it with a coat of wax and then dyeing the cloth. When the wax is removed, the contrast between the dyed and undyed areas makes the pattern. It is a three-stage process of waxing, dyeing and de-waxing multiple times in order to achieve a desired design. The characteristic effects of batik are the fine cracks that appear in the wax, which allow small amounts of the dye to seep in.

Fair Trade Batik Sarongs

Artisan making Fair Trade Batik Sarong for Sevya Handmade

Batik is a method of decorating fabrics practiced for centuries by the artisans of Indonesia and India. It consists of applying a design to the surface of the cloth by using melted wax. The material is then dipped in cool herbal or low-impact dyes; the portions protected by the wax do not receive the dye, and when the wax is removed in hot water the previously covered areas display a light pattern on the colored ground.

Remains of ancient clothing found in Java indicate that the same or similar patterns have been in use for about a thousand years and are handed down along family lines. Certain designs were traditionally reserved for royalty and high officials. Motifs are geometric or are based on conventionalized natural objects. Natural fabrics like cotton and silk are generally used for hand batik.

Batik artisans employ the process of repeated waxing and tub dyeing to achieve the final result. This method involves an understanding of color mixing and over-dyeing, as each layer of dye is applied over the last, producing a new color.

After many different applications, the background tends towards dark brown, black or grey. The waxed areas remain the lighter shades produced by each individual dye application and combinations thereof.

The traditional colors of batik textiles include indigo, dark brown, and white, which represent the three major Hindu Gods (Brahmā, Vishnu, and Śiva). This is also related to the fact that natural dyes are most commonly available in shades of indigo and brown. Only certain patterns can only be worn by nobility, so wider stripes or wavy lines were used traditionally to signify a person of higher social rank. During Javanese ceremonies one could determine the royal lineage of a person by the cloth he or she was wearing.

As an art form, batik faded from use but has seen a revival in India beginning in the 20th century when it was re-introduced as a subject of study at the famous University of Shantiniketan in Kolkata. In the south, near Chennai, the well-known
artists’ village of Chola-Mandal is also an important center for continued development of batik craft.

Cotton Batik Scarf

Purple batik scarf by Sevya Handmade


The batik process is quite intricate and the resulting design and patterns are stunning and very unique. You will find many gorgeous examples of our Fair trade batik scarves and sarongs in our wholesale fair trade collection.

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Oppression and Slavery in Today’s Textile Industry

Consumers beware: if you knew exactly how that cheap item of clothing was made you would probably think twice. Behind that bargain item could be atrocious conditions, sometimes even slave labor. Many examples of abysmal conditions in the textile industry including forced labor highlight the extremes of an entire spectrum of inhumane conditions. These examples have shown up in every continent and in a long list of countries.

A group of artisans using traditional embroidery techniques. Sevya supports traditional practices in production for the fair trade wholesale and retail markets.

A group of artisans using traditional embroidery techniques. Sevya supports traditional practices in production for the fair trade wholesale and retail markets.

A recent case in point is particularly poignant. An article published on infosurhoy.com on May 24, 2013 refers to the announcement by Brazil’s Public Ministry of Labor (MPT) that the textile industry is among the top three culprits in forcing immigrants to Brazil into slave-like conditions. Sadly, this story has many correlates in various places in the world. Incidences of forced servitude in textile production are well documented in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, for instance. In 2007 a famous cheap fashion giant was forced to account for revelations of abbysmal conditions amounting to slavery in certain suppliers for its clothing lines. Ironically, forced child labor was indicated in evidence addressed in what became a major source of shame (but limited accountability) for this organization.

Some attest that companies that outsource to countries such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are providing valuable jobs to impoverished areas, so they should be applauded regardless of proven terrible working conditions. According to such sources, these companies are not aware of the conditions of each and every one of their many streams of production. But the truth is that these companies certainly are aware that these conditions come with the territory when they expect goods made at the utterly cheap price points they outsource for.

Truly fair trade clothing offers an alternate route. In order to earn fair trade certification, producers must meet strict requirements that are monitored by the certifying body. For example, in the U.S. the Fair Trade Federation requires adherence to nine principles of fair trade. These nine principles are: 1) create opportunities for economically and socially marginalized producers; 2) develop transparent and accountable relationships; 3) building capacity and independence for producers; 4) promote fair trade; 5) pay promptly and fairly; 6) promote safe and empowering work conditions; 7) ensure the rights of children; 8) cultivate environmental stewardship; and, 9) respect cultural identity. If these principles are followed there is absolutely no room for abusive conditions. In fact, quite the opposite conditions can flourish. Entire communities can create sustainable, empowering livelihoods. Any organization dedicated to promoting such sustainability under Fair Trade Federation certification does so through a solid commitment to each of these fair trade principles. Sevya strives to be an exemplary model of fidelity to these principles.

Natural Dyed Thread used in Sevya's retail and wholesale fair trade clothing.

Natural Dyed Thread used in Sevya’s retail and wholesale fair trade clothing.

Sevya takes its commitment to fair trade principles very seriously, because promoting sustainable and fair conditions for producers and their communities is very serious business. As so many examples of intolerable conditions, even slavery, continuously emerge in the news our commitment continues to grow. We hope to inspire consumers to think of the effects of their purchases, and to seek out fair trade options wherever possible. Fair trade provides a measurable, accountable means for consumers to see positive effects for their retail and wholesale fair trade purchases.

Spinning Yarn for Handloom for Sevya's retail and wholesale fair trade clothing.

Spinning Yarn for Handloom for Sevya’s retail and wholesale fair trade clothing.

If you are undecided as to the importance of fair trade in the textile industry, try searching the internet, media and literature available on the subject of documented labor conditions and slavery in today’s textile industry. The magnitude of the problem is amplified by certain factors present in the global marketplace, weak government involvement and apathy by consumers. All of these factors can be effectively counteracted. We need to begin by considering how our purchases affect those who produce the items we buy.

Sevya offers a wide range of elegant, refined fair trade clothing, decor, jewelry, and other items. We appreciate your willingness to think about how your purchases of these fair trade items can truly help change conditions for the better.

Jerry Rasch writes for Sevya as a part-time, but whole-hearted pursuit.

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