Monday, 22 February 2010

Step #1: A sewing circle

I haven't been able to do very much these past few days, as I still have stomach type problems and envisage that I am probably going to have to leave to seek medical advice about this later in the week. In the meantime, I have continued to work slowly away at stitching this.

More kantha stiching.

A close-up. Not bad, eh?

Softened again by the early morning light.

I'm very pleased with the waythis piece is coming along, and now that I have nearly completed the kantha stitching on all but one of the chocolate-colored panels - and isn't it lovely, the way that the cream-colored stitching has softened the contrast of the chocolate? - I'm putting this to one side as my evening cloth.

Apart from stitching, I have been thinking. Alot! I find that the two go rather well together, stitching and thinking. In the same way that walking and thinking go well together, or gardening and thinking. Anyway, I've been thinking more about my idea of setting up a textile "thing" with a group of women from the village. At the same time I have started to do some research online about similar projects, in different parts of the world. How are they managed, what do they make, etc, etc.

What's interesting, to me at least, is the fact that so many other cultures, where this kind of idea has been implimented, already have traditional artisan skills to draw upon, like weaving, dying, and embroidery. Here, where I live, the majority of the woman remain unskilled, many not even having completed their education. That's not to judge them, of course, it's simply to acknowledge the reality of what might be involved in developing my idea. Before we could begin making things, I am going to have to teach them certain basic techniques. Which is fine. But before I can do that, I am going to have to teach myself ;} I'm just trying to figure this thing out, out loud. And by sharing my ideas here, maybe something will ocurr to you, that i haven't thought of yet. So it could be very helpful.

Yesterday, I blogged a little about aspects of life in our village. The day before that, I blogged briefly about my idea to create a women's textiles co-operative. Both posts received some really lovely comments and encouraging thoughts from you. Thanks so much for your support!

Over the weekend, it dawned on me that helping a small group of women to help themselves, is infact an indirect way to help the school children. One of my concerns about donating money and supplies to the school is that it comes in, is used, and then we have to look for more. So, although I plan to continue with that at the moment, I see it as a short term solution. I need to be creative and dream up a middle to long term solution, which is what I think my idea might be. Ideally, one which provides women with access to a little income, which will help them with the cost of school supplies, medical care, clothing, and food. Nobody wants to be permenantly dependant on charity! And I happen to believe in the benifits of a family having a mixed portfolio, and teh power of micro-economies. With the world climate - environmental and economic - the way it is these days, you just can't afford to put all of your eggs in one basket!

So, first things first... How to begin?

Having thought quite carefully about this idea over the weekend, I think the best way would be to start a small sewing circle at my home. Invite a few of the women to a coffee/sewing morning type of thing, and offer them some fabric and threads, and provide a refreshment and a snack, and the chance to for them to explore and maybe learn something new. That way, I am not raising anyones hopes with the mention of making money, and at the same time, I get to see who is genuinely interested and has some potential. I have to be realistic with myself about this. It's no good thinking that I can help everyone, and not everyone is going to enjoy or be any good at this kind of thing. So, we have to start out with baby steps, while I'm busy working on the bigger picture.

I have been saving my money - that I earn from having guests - to put towards building an open workshop, in the lower garden area. That's going to take a while, but will be somewhere where, eventually, the women could work, at dying and printing and stitching cloth.

So, my immediate considerations are these:

* Making sure I have some supplies for a small group to work with over the course of a few weeks. Probably when I next leave the Peninsula, I will rummage through the thrift stores for nice fabrics. Threads, I am probably going to have to buy, along with needles, and pins and tape measures, and I would love to get my hands on some of those very cool washable markers, but they don't seem to exist in Costa Rica! Say! If anyone is interested in this idea, you could donate by mail a light-weight start-up pack. Yes... that's a brilliant idea!!! :) Doesn't have to be big stuff,'coz the idea is to recycle fabrics and use scraps to complete small projects that can be given a within-reach retail price,($25-30) but which also sell in higher numbers than a higher priced piece might... if you see what I mean? I'm thinking, small coin purses, cushion covers, notebook covers, etc. Anyone got any other suggestions for cool, viable, contemporary, small projects?

* Resources. I guess I can download quite a few resources online. I am also thinking to get my mother-in-law down here from San Jose, because she is deft at needlework. Infact, I've been meaning to show you these for a while now.

Silk pansies. Detail from a cushion slip by Mecedes Fernandez Zuniga.

Wild berries. Detail from a cushion slip by Mecedes Fernandez Zuniga.

Birds and berries. Cushion slip by Mecedes Fernandez Zuniga.

These examples were the results of a commercially-bought kit. But not everyone could produce something as lovely as these!

This, on the other hand, is a simple, traditional, design, that a crafts teacher sketched out, and Mercedes chose to work on on a black cotton. I LOVE this piece! To me, it has something very gypsy about it. I really want her to do more work in this style, to incorporate in my designs.

I am also thinking I might start a seperate blog to document the journey into my women's group idea.

Finally, I found this in my drawer over the weekend. A simple tapestry(?) piece of a rose bloom that I began(!) a few years ago. I threw it into a pan of beetroot juice, along with some other scraps. We'll see what happens!!!

If Life gives you Russian salad... dye cloth! ;}


jude said...

sure. i will send some scraps.... let me blog about that too. maybe i can help.

Sweetpea said...

Hello Catherine ~ I think you're on to a really lovely idea with a sewing circle. I would be more than happy to share fabric scraps - I've got a stash of Indonesian batiks, if that appeals.

As for ideas for small projects, you tweaked my memory bank back to a time when an old friend invited me to a stitching evening where we made pin cushions from scraps (filled with rice, very easy). I have it to this of the first things I ever stitched completely by hand.

And last, not my business, but your tummy troubles...any chance you might be gluten intolerant? We have that in our family & it can give you a mighty bellyache. It's also very easy to solve!

Anonymous said...

Purples on their way. I'll send some fabrics for your group too.
Actually I thought of gluten intolerance too...

Anonymous said...

PS Or would you rather choose another swap pack? I mean for your group, not to swap.

arlee said...

I will gladly send what i can as well--and spread the word

Jacky said...

I would love to send some fabrics along and will find some of those pens you are after. What a great idea (and thanks for letting us be part of it).
Let me know your address and anything you think might be of use that I could send.
What absolutely beautiful embroidery your mother in law does. That black piece is very gypsy-ish. Love it.

Enjoy your time with your exciting for you. My eldest son lives overseas too (Switzerland) and has done for nearly six years so I know how excited you must be.

Nearly forgot...your evening cloth is looking beautiful.

Jacky xox

Anonymous said...

Fabrics on their way :-) Your postman's going to love us!

Sandra said...

I'm wishing you lots of luck with your project. I think it's a good idea to invite some women at your home and try to raise their interests.
You could make scarves, small bags, jewlery.
your mother in law made some beauitful cloth's.

Hope you're feeling better soon. Take care.


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