Jun

10

Moving Forward

It’s been a few months since we’ve updated and certainly a lot has happened. When we last updated we were in the midst of training the first class of women that Stitching Sparrow would hire. The women were extraordinary. They were excited about the opportunity to work; it wasn’t just about the income but the sense of identity and dignity in being able to contribute something beautiful to the world.

However during that month, we realized that there are some very critical missing pieces in the operations. When we began all our planning, we had one solid premise – the sewing center needs to be a for-profit business. It’s not so much about making tons of money – it never has. It’s about running the sewing center with the heart and hustle to produce on-time, on-budget and at a remarkable level of quality. 

This is critical for two reasons. First, quality, cost and reliability are of utmost importance when producing a product for the western market. The second reason, being just as important, is that when we value the product, we value the women who make it. Pursuing excellence in production means we believe they are capable and recognize the work they put into it. This is why we were very adamant about running the sewing center as a business.

However as the training came to an end, we realized our partners would not (at the present time) be able to run the sewing center the way we heartily believed it needed to be run. It was a mixture of not being able to commit the kind of time/resources we expected and the conflicting mentality of wanting to run a business like a non-profit. I want to say here that our partners, who we love as family, are people of utmost integrity. We are always encouraged by their sacrificial and servant’s heart and have learned an enormous amount from them. 

Unfortunately in the end, we needed to pull out of working with Stitching Sparrow. It’s heartbreaking for both for us. There is a lot of potential. But it’s critical that we be on the same page as to how the sewing center would be run. We may consider working together again and will likely revisit the idea in the future. For now however it is better we part ways. 

Fortunately, the old motto as one door closes another opens is very true. We were extremely fortunate to connect with other established sewing centers in other parts of India and we are presently seeing whether we can have them make our blankies. They’ve already produced export quality product and are committed to working with poor and marginalized communities. We’re excited about the opportunities to partner and shooting to have a new product line in the fall. We’re in heavy design mode right now and look forward to having something out to you as soon as possible!

As we reflect on the past few months, we’ve grieved not seeing our plans with Stitching Sparrow come to fruition. But we’ve also learned a ton and will be better people for it. Without waver, we’re still committed to two things: making beautiful products and empowering under-resourced people. We’re excited about the future of Ellie Fun Day and look out for new and exciting things in the coming year! 

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Jul

06

The Possibilities Continue : Sewing Center Development

It’s been surreal to see the possibilities here in India. The past several days have been filled with meetings and planning to see what we need to get all the right things to make it happen. The largest key factors are the people. We are continually interviewing and waiting for the right trainer, manager to make sure that they have the same vision as our mission. We met with a man that was from the Dalit untouchable community that apparently is skilled in export manufacturing. Our true test of his skills? We had him reproduce the Sharkie blankie from scratch.

We were impressed to say the least. He had no pattern, just our Sharkie blanket. The other indication that he has an eye. The fabric that I gave him was cut in a different direction just to save fabric and he was able to tell. Only a trained eye would know that.

One more indication of the possibility of this happening occurred as I was standing on the road leading up to the entrance to the sewing center. I saw an amazing black, red and yellow swallowtail butterfly . Then I proceeded to see at least 15 or more yellow butterflies fluttering all throughout the road. Then it struck me…this is the beginning of my own personal rebirth.

A couple of weeks back for my final project in my fashion design class, I chose the theme “Chrysalitic Emergence” for my collection. I designed a series of evening dresses that were based on the concept of a caterpillar’s transformation. This was a very personal collection as I feel in this time and place in my life, I’m being transformed into something new and beautiful. But in order for that to happen I needed to purge the ugliness, the self-doubt and insecurities of my past for this to happen.

I am continually amazed by the pieces that are coming together at just the right time for this project. The next two days we are off to meet with Blossom, a women’s undergarment manufacturer and Kara Weaves, a hand loom women’s cooperative.

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Jun

26

The Possibilities Continue

The foreign smells that still smack me in the face each time I land in India signified that I was back. Things felt familiar, yet adjusting to the jarring sounds and stares told me I wasn’t in California. After a long 23 hour flight, we settled into our guesthouse and rested up.

Our goal for this trip is to continue our efforts in developing our sewing center that would help empower the untouchable caste women. We met for the past two days with the women to continue assessing their skills and to see what sort of training we needed.

So far they have again exceeded our expectations in their skills and their eagerness to excel.

We had them take apart the sewing machines and clean them. Then we proceeded to test them in more complex sewing skills and embroidery. This time we also tested their eyesight and reading skills. A couple of them were able to understand what they read, a couple of others couldn’t. I realize that improvement in literacy is another side-project that would benefit them.

I was MOST encouraged by this one woman named, Shopa. She is probably one of our more higher skilled women. At the end of our assessment she knew that another lady didn’t have much sewing skills and she told us that she would be happy to teach her what she knew in the meantime. That is true mark of a good leader. I’m encouraged!

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