Society

Thuvam, known for its sustainable inner-wear for women, forays into a line of cloth dolls

Of fish friends and elephant tails

It started with bits and pieces of scrap fabric. SP Ponmani, who is behind Thuvam, a brand of women’s underwear in unbleached, handwoven cotton, started collecting scraps from her tailoring unit at Puliyanur village in Villupuram district to put them to some use. “I first tried making the simple structure of a fish,” says the 27-year-old.

Ponmani holds a diploma in Garment Technology and learned toy-making as part of her curriculum. She gradually taught women from her unit too and soon, she involved children from the village as well. “I would make the dolls with them whenever we had time; such as on Saturdays and evenings after they came back from school,” she says, adding that the exercise was an extension of her embroidery and tailoring workshops for children at the nearby Cuckoo Forest School where she volunteers.

Initially, Ponmani stuffed the dolls with strips of cloth from old T-shirts and kurtas. As interest in the dolls piqued, she perfected her design and technique, and sourced printed cotton fabric from Chennai. “I also tried stuffing the dolls with ilavan panju (silk cotton), but they did not retain the shape a few days on,” she says, adding that she now uses polyester stuffing instead.

Thuvam, known for its sustainable inner-wear for women, forays into a line of cloth dolls

Ponmani feels cloth toys are better than their plastic counterparts. “They do not harm the environment and can be washed, and re-purposed after their lifetime,” she adds.

“There is no risk of choking and mothers can safely offer such toys to their children.” Right now in the Thuvam cloth dolls range, Ponmani has sunshine-orange elephants made of checked cotton, and fish with floral motifs, both palm-sized.

This offshoot to her brand, according to Ponmani, is also aimed at helping the women in Puliyanur village add to their income. “Our team of three women make this once we are done with our underwear tailoring for the day; it takes less than an hour to finish a product,” she adds.

Ponmani is looking at introducing more design options, as well as eco-friendly stuffing.

“I’m considering glass fibre that’s a by-product of the transition of silicon to glass,” she says. “Hopefully, we will soon use it in place of polyester.” She is also talking to more women in the village, encouraging them to join her tailoring unit — most women there work in industrial clusters in bigger cities and hardly get to spend time with their children.

Ponmani says that the dolls have added more colour to their lives, literally. “The underwear we make is off-white in colour, since they are unbleached and for a change, our women are working with coloured fabric,” she laughs.

Thuvam ships across India. The fish and elephant dolls are priced at ₹80 and ₹100 respectively. For details, call 8098444908, or visit their Facebook page.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2020 9:24:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/fish-friends-and-elephant-tails/article30800617.ece

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