MarketPlace’s Chindi collection exemplifies two qualities central to our organization: style and economic empowerment. The chindi, material scraps left over from garment production, are recycled into new clothing and accessories in a variety of creative ways. Sometimes they are used in patchwork, and sometimes they are made into embellishments such as tassels, trim or other accents. The different hand-dyed fabric pieces add unique style to MarketPlace products. They are also often the creation of new artisans. Women who come to the cooperatives with no experience using sewing machines can practice by sewing chindi squares together. It is a great way to learn to sew straight and accurate seams! When the sewn-together chindi strips or squares are perfect, they can be incorporated into finished products. Producing parts of the chindi collection gives fledgling groups the chance to gain confidence in their production, punctuality and quality control.
There are many steps involved taking the chindi scraps from the cutting floor to finished products.
After production, the scraps are gathered up and sent to a central workshop. Usually, at the start of it all, we are faced with a gigantic multi-hued ball. This has to be pulled apart to separate and sort all the pieces. Scraps are grouped according to size and color. For color, they are further organized by both pattern and background color. Two pieces may have the same color in the pattern, but if the one has a white background and the other a dark color, they may not work together.
Each piece is ironed flat before being cut to a specified size and shape. Some designs call for 2”, 4” or 6” squares. Others use triangles of different dimensions. Sometimes the designs incorporate long strips of scraps.
This jacket requires 6” squares. A template is used and the dimensions marked on the fabric with tailor’s chalk.
Stacks of the cut chindi pieces are turned over to the sewing trainees. These are kept within reach next to each sewing machine. An artisan takes one piece from each stack in front of her, attaches them together and sews them into a strip. Then the strips are sewn together to make designated shapes. Depending on their planned use, the chindis may be made into 1-yard pieces, 10” squares, or some other shape. By doing this work the trainee learns the basics: how to start and stop the sewing machine, how much pressure to apply on the foot pedal, and how to feed the fabric through the needle. Fitting the pieces together gives them practice in accuracy as they have to get the corners and edges to line up and keep their stitching straight.
And here you have chindi patchwork fabric ready for the next step: printing!
We use techniques of printing and dyeing to create a cohesive piece out of the sewn-together chindi pieces. It is difficult to know ahead of time how many total chindis will be generated as well as how many of each color. If the final design is color-specific, we could run out of that particular color. By overdyeing or block printing over the chindis, we can control the color palette. For this jacket, the chindis form a backdrop for new hand block printing.
Here the printed chindi fabric is combined other fabrics to add texture and style.
Below are three garments using this fabric
These garments give new life to what used to be considered useless scraps. And their production gives a new start to women who are determined to transform their own lives.