Sunday, October 25, 2009

Wow, malkha is picking up fans in Europe. Here is a note from a French buyer, a 'partner with Hermes International':

As a designer, I have been very attracted by the texture and aspect of the malka textiles, as well as the natural colors that you managed to blend in a very smart way, the subtil chiné effects.

Some of us, designers, are concern by the tendancy, nowdays, to work with products which are more man-friendly and less eco-friendly. The fact that in Malka, the cotton does not travel extensively, creating more pollution in India, but is treated locally, adds to the value of the product, its exclusiveness.

A greater number of the foreign customers are more and more concerned about environment and human issues, and Malka can meet the requirements of this market. That is why i was keen, since the beginning on using malka cottons for european market.

Samples of the garments sent to Paris last month fair met a good response, so i will develop more of these products, as top-of–the-range creations are our niche.

Congratulation to the Malka cotton developers for having created a line of products that meets our requirements, as far as quality, esthetic and ethics are concerned.

... and so to the ring-frames, where the sliver is spun into yarn. We prefer to have it handspun on 12-spindle motorized domestic charkhas, in the regions where women are looking for additional sources of income which they can manage at home...see the picture of our women spinners in the blog of Sept 19. If not, then we spin it on mechanized ring frames with 180-240 spindles.

The yarn is then wound into hanks, and sent off to the dye-house or, if it is to be made into undyed cloth, boiled for strength before going into the pre-loom processes.

About the weaving you'll hear from me later.

We're back into pre-exhibition mode, this time in preparations for Nature Bazar in Delhi at the Indira Gandhi Centre for the Arts [IGNCA], Janpath, from November 5 to 14. And I hope we'll see all our old customers there who so enthusiastically bought malkha last year and wrote appreciative messages in our visitors' book, and new customers too.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Continuing the cotton-to-cloth story from the last blog:

Instead of going through the baling, unbaling and blowroom processes, the cotton that comes to malkha units comes in lint form straight from the ginning mill. [In two of the three units that are presently working in Andhra, the cotton is organically grown]. The lint is fed into our revolutionary carding machine [pictured here], where it is treated gently. Trash is easily dislodged, since it has not been pressed into the lint. The lighter-than-air fibres are hardly touched by the metal, guided rather than forced, into alignment and first form a lap, and then blanket, and then carded sliver, or loose rope form.

From here the carded sliver is fed into the second machine, the draw-frame, where 6 individual slivers are drawn into one, in the process equalizing all the uneven parts. And here is a picture of the draw-frame. What comes out is called the drawn sliver, and this goes into the flyer-frame, where it is drawn down to about the thickness of a pencil, and wound onto roving bobbins which will then be spun on ring-frames into yarn... more later

Monday, October 12, 2009

People often ask for a step-by-step lesson on the cotton to cloth process, and how malkha is different. Here goes:
1. Cotton is picked by hand [of course this entire explanation is specific to India, in the U.S. its picked by machine] [I'm not going into cultivation here] and taken to the ginning mill.
2. Ginning means separating the lint from the seed. The proportion by weight is usually around 70% seed and 30% lint. Usually the ginning mill keeps the seed as payment for ginning.
3. Now we come to the difference: in the regular process the lint is steam-pressed into bales, sqeezing the light & fluffy lint into a hard bale of about the density of a block of wood. Malkha avoids this and the following three stages.
4. When the bales arrive in the spinning mills they pass on conveyor belts through coarse, medium and fine-toothed opening. This breaks up the mass into smaller chunks.
5. The chunks or lumps of cotton lint are then blown with great force in the blow-room ... to get the fibres back to their original separate state!
By which time the fibres which started out springy, lively, and lustrous with their capacity for absorbency and colour-holding intact have become dull and lifeless and lost their springiness.
... to be continued

Sunday, October 4, 2009

We have recently installed our 4th unit in Andhra. Upto now we have been in the fortunate position of demand exceeding supply, but we don't know how far this will continue. Until new units reach a monthly production of around 1500 metres of cloth per month, their running costs exceed their incomes. The first unit took several years to reach this stage, the second and third will take about 2 years, and the third possibly only a year.We bridge the gap with the margins on the cloth that we sell, which makes our cash-flow extremely tight! Most of our customers are exemplary in settling their bills immediately, some even pay in advance, and this is what keeps us going. We're learning the hard way that successful marketing is not just a matter of sales but also of managing cash flow.