First Hand Spinning Project, Oton, Iloilo

In collaboration with Nooks Manufacturing

From February 1st to the 7th, in Oton, Iloilo, HABI together with Nooks Manufacturing conducted a spinning module to teach and encourage women to take up cotton hand spinning. Ten women were chosen to participate for the workshop.Some of their children joined at the weekend for a funfilled experience on spinning and dyeing .

The workshop was held in the training facility of the Oton LGU. They worked in air-conditioned comfort and had meals catered during the whole course. The module facilitator was Emi Daniel of Nooks, Inc. an advocate of reviving the Philippine cotton industry.

The participants, some of whom came everyday from the next town of Miagao were gathered by Girlie Flores, a jewel of an organiser whose passion is empowering women in the textile crafts.
For the 7-day module, HABI flew in several spinning wheels made of beautiful mahogany wood. simple tools, raw cotton. The dyes and chemicals, because the airlines would not carry them, were shipped via courier. As there were not enough spinning wheels for all the participants, the group was split in two so at least 5 could try their hands at spinning while the others were taught the art and chemistry of dyeing cotton. Then they switched places.
An enthusiastic lot, the women were quick to learn both spinning and dying. By the end of the module, they were producing very fine thread, a skill which requires much patience and long practice. Some of them had spun several ounces of cotton as a result of the very thoughtfully designed program. Emi Danial had devised the course using implements that are easily available in the hardwares of the Oton market so in the future, the women will be able to make their own spinning wheels and other tools.
The carding and cleaning process, probably the most tedious part of making cotton thread was done using steel brushes sold in pet shops to groom dogs. However, according to Emi, the process can be speeded up and mechanised if mats of the steel brush are ordered and made into revolving drums to prepare the cotton for spinning.
Nooks, Inc. had offered to buy any and all the thread produced by the women but it appears that weavers in Iloilo will have some use for hand-spun cotton.
The dyeing aspect of the module included formulas for bleaching the cotton prior to tinting and recipes to achieve certain colors. Young girls who had come with their mothers came up with tie-dyed t-shirts which were sold at the end of the workshop. The same young girls also learned to card and assisted their mothers in spinning.
On February 8, Maribel Ongpin and I flew to Iloilo for the graduation ceremonies. We were quite pleased by the results we witnessed. The Mayor of Oton (of the Flores political dynasty) came to the training centre, very keen on the workshop. A proponent of organic agriculture, he promised to designate idle LGU lands for planting cotton. The Department of Tourism and the Fiber Industry Development Agency sent their representatives as well. We learned that a senior officer of FIDA, Oton is a cotton expert and about to retire.
One of the reasons Iloilo was chosen as the site of this spinning module is because one of the towns in the province — Leon — is known to grow cotton. It is hoped that farmers in the area will be encouraged to plant cotton again, if a demand for the crop comes about. This time, the cotton was brought from Ilocos Norte.
This spinning module can be easily replicated in other parts of the country where cotton can be grown and where there is a (moribund) hand-weaving tradition. Weaving in locally grown cotton would level up the textiles produced in the country.

(Photos here are from the Oton Spinning Module and the Parellel project of Baguio Philippine Cotton weave and Ilocos Philippine Cotton Weave)

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