Today I’ll be printing up more of these bags ready for our next update on 25th January.
I talk a lot about our yarns and where the wool comes from and is processed – so I thought I’d do the same for these bags.
We carry two types of bags in the shop. The zip pouches and tote bags come to us ready made, while the drawstring and rolltop bags are made from scratch by myself or the lovely Carol who lives locally. I’ll talk more about these bags soon, but today is about the zip pouch bags.
We sometimes get asked why we buy ready made bags rather than making them from scratch – and that’s an easy question to answer. We want to be able to offer bags for different budgets, and buying ready made bags is the best way for us to achieve this. These bags are made on a a huge scale which offers several economies. The other big factor in price is that our bags are made in India where wages are lower.
So how do we keep it ethical?
We source our bags though a UK company which has committed to only selling FairTrade bags. For a bag to carry the Cotton FAIRTRADE Certification Mark the cotton farmers must meet Fairtrade Standards. The production, from the growing and processing of the cotton to the manufacturing of the bag has to be compliant with the Fairtrade Cotton Standard.
The company makes regular visits to the factory to ensure that working conditions are maintained. I can’t easily (or practically) do that, so this is the best option for us. We’d love to use only Fairtrade Organic cotton bags, but the raw materials vary greatly in availability and price so it’s something that we’ll keep working towards.
When the bags arrive with us that’s when I get to start printing. Screen printing can be a chemical nightmare and there’s the potential to use all sorts of toxic gloop at every stage from making the screens to printing to cleaning the screens afterwards.
We’ve found green versions of emulsion (used for making the screens) and screen strip (used for taking everything off the screen once you don’t need it any more). We try to find designs which we’ll keep using, so each screen can be used multiple times – and that reduces the amount of chemicals and water we use.
One issue for us when we started screen printing was ink – it’s a fact of screen printing life that some of your ink is going to end up being washed down the drain. We use Permaset which are approved by the Soil Association – and they’re easy to clean up with washing up liquid. The inks also last well – they don’t have that plastic feeling that you can find on t-shirts, so your bags will stay looking good for a long time. To help ensure this we heat set all of our prints as this means that they’ll wear much better.
We make the tags which go on our bags from poplar plywood which is screen printed on one side and laser etched on the other. Laser cutting is a brilliant way of making use of every bit of a sheet of wood as it’s very precise. We use wood which is covered by the FCS scheme that helps to protect forests.
So that’s the lowdown on our cotton bags.