‘Organic fibers’ have become like a buzzword thrown around by many brands. Hence it becomes important to understand what it implies to invest in a brand tagged ‘organic cotton or organic wool’.
Traditionally organic fibers have been used to make lifestyle products for centuries but to know where the products are being manufactured is to understand what you are investing in. While some organic fibres are taken from plants, a number of them are also taken from animals such as organic wool or organic silk. But if you are someone who believes in sustainability along with veganism (like me!), then the organic fibres for you are plant-based ones like reed, hemp, cotton and flax to name a few. The plants are spun in the yarn and used to make beautiful bags, clothes and even shoes!
Reed is our current favourite especially because indigenous cultures in India have skillfully used reed in not just thatching to make clothing but also in construction. Water reeds are used to make roofs and are a big positive in sustainable architectural practices while also serving as excellent counterparts for natural landscaping.
One such usage of Reed that has got my attention is the eco-friendly handcrafted items made from water reed grass in the North-East of India. Kauna is the local name for a reed or rush belonging to the family Cyperaceae which is cultivated in the wetlands and marshes of Imphal valley. The Manipuri’s use them for large-scale production and marketing of crafts like mats and cushions. Not only are these comfortable but also eco-friendly. Besides this, the materials natural properties also include being able to reduce noise if used as a barrier and thermal insulator.
It has a cylindrical, soft and spongy stem which is woven into mats, square and rectangular cushions and mattresses by the women of the Meitei community of Manipur. The reed is harvested during spring, summer and autumn, and can last for 20 to 25 years, once it’s planted.
The raw material for the craft is obtained by simple processing wherein the reed is cut near the base of the plant and dried in the sun. It is also smoked if it is to be preserved and stored for a longer time. The mats are woven by interlacing the stalks with jute threads using basic and simple tools.
The art has been tapped to become a flourishing industry. Many brands like Ziveli have empowered artisans by selling their products online and providing employment to them. It is notable that the state has not witnessed any shortage of raw materials since water reed from which these mats are generated spread fast and climatic conditions in Manipur ensure no scarcity of raw material.
The Kauna trend is catching up with the world trends and I am leaving you with links to shop for some of the cool handicrafts and bags made out of this popular sustainable reed.