Matching zips is one of those little knotty problems that can drive designers mad.

Zipped up colours!

Matching zips is one of those little knotty problems that can drive designers mad. They design a great weave in a lovely combination of colours, create a wonderful bag design and then can’t find the right matching colour zip. In MESH Design Studio the solution has been to dye the zips to match the yarns used in the weave. Having experimented first in the studio with encouraging results MESH asked Bethany Leprosy Colony if they would like training for the weaving women in how to dye zips. Once they had accepted the offer it was just a matter of a quick visit to old Delhi to buy the dyes, an online train booking and Narayan, MESH Design’s Studio weaver and technician boarded the train for the 30 hour trip from Delhi to Bapatla.

Heating up the dye mix
Heating up the dye mix

In Bethany Leprosy Colony Rehab Unit there are two groups of weavers who work in two shifts of 15 days each. Two women from each weaving batch were selected for the training and they worked with Narayan learning how to measure and mix the dyes, manage the water temperature and dye the zips.

Bethany weavers comparing zip dyeing notes
Bethany weavers comparing zip dyeing notes

It sounded easy but there were language constraints as Narayan speaks Hindi and Tamil whilst the weavers speak Telugu, so Mr. Yesudas was brought in to help with translation. There was a delay as zips were not available as expected and then one was a very odd quality that shrivelled up when it was dyed! But in the event the training was completed. The women dyed the zips unaided once using their notes convincing Narayan that they will be able to manage the work themselves now.

One added bonus for MESH is that the son of one of the Bethany weavers, who is studying fashion design, was home on leave so he came along and learned from Narayan too.

This training is part of a series of trainings by MESH to increase the skills and broaden the knowledge of the women weavers in Bethany. Over the last few years Bethany women have been trained by MESH in many aspects of the work of a weaving rehab unit:
  • Making swatches and developing product samples from specification sheets.
  • Local marketing
  • Quality control
  • Product development (MESH has conducted four design workshops with Bethany women in the last four years)
  • Zip dyeing
For the first time in 30 years women ran the unit themselves for a month in August 2009. For various financial and administrative reasons they have not continued doing that but their increased knowledge of how the unit should run and their place on a working committee means that we expect best practice to gradually become the norm in Bethany with the women very much at the helm.

Their new collection will be ready in March….look out for it!

Narayan, MESH Design Studio Weaver and Technician
Narayan, MESH Design Studio Weaver and Technician

Narayan is from Bharat Mata Kusht Ashram, a leprosy colony in north India. We asked him on his return what were his impressions on visiting Bethany Leprosy Colony this is what he had to say:

"I liked the systems of working in Bethany with the tailors having their own room and everything divided into departments. The weavers seemed very clear about their work and responsibility. I was amazed that they had a paid cleaner as I have never seen that in any other unit. I think it is good if the weavers and tailors can come into a room already cleaned by someone else so they can focus straight away on their work."

" I think there is great capability in Bethany if there was more unity amongst everyone"