Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
JOHNS TOWN, St Thomas:HAVING RECEIVED financial help through the Local Initiative Facility for the Environment (LIFE), Daughters of Indigo have almost completed its production centre at Johns Town, St Thomas, where these resourceful women have been busy creating craft and household items from natural materials.
Some of the items were on display during the recent annual general meeting of LIFE in Kingston where spokeswoman Allison Hollies Cummings told The Gleaner that the items were just a small example of what members had been doing to empower themselves.
Comprising 10 women, Daughters of Indigo is a subsidiary of the Johns Town Women's Sewing and Craft Collective. It has partnered with LIFE on a dying project in which indigenous and other materials are cultivated, harvested, and collected and used to create a signature line of bed sheets, pillow cases, scarves, women's outfits, place mats, napkins, and jewellery. Logwood, yellow ginger, indigo, onion trash, and hibiscus are just a few of the raw materials used.
The work is very difficult, according to Hollies Cummins, with indigo particularly hard to source. Extracted from the plant Indigofera tinctoria and related species, indigo is a rich bluish-purple dye. Usually, they are able to collect logwood that has already been cut, with onion being a easily accessible. Hibiscus and other plants must be harvested.
Participation in the recent mini-exhibition constituted part of the group's market research, and by the time it moves into the production centre, the group will have ironed out the kinks in the marketing and distribution of its distinctive product line.
Hollies Cummins shared some of the plans: "Once we start production, we will be using natural fibres - cotton, silk, linen - to do dying with, so we are using and testing different types of fabrics. These include cotton to make scarves, sheeting to make our sheets and pillow cases, and calico to make our yoga bags. So we are actually in the marketing testing phase of our production."
After 10 weeks of intensive training, the group, since December, has been in active production at least five days per week, with fabric preparation a major factor in the manufacturing process. The fabric must first be cleaned, washed, and scoured to remove any oil or other contaminant which could compromise its ability to absorb the dye.
Then comes the mordant process where a substance such as wax is used to set the dye on the fabric or tissue, which takes as much as 24 hours. At that point, you are still a far way from completing the job, according to Hollies Cummins.
She explains: "After that there is the cutting, sewing, pressing, packaging, and labelling. So it's quite a process to get it all done."
With all the work involved, the Daughters of Indigo should be busy for some time as they move to utilise more of the natural resources in sustainable and environmentally friendly ways.