Monday, September 29, 2014

Burlap Craze

It's always an adventure to see where some of my sales and projects will take me and today I'm going to tell you a story of a woman and her project in Haiti. Ellen got in touch with me to purchase a couple Kenmore sewing machines. Her requirements were that they were easy to use and were low maintenance so Kenmore fit the bill. After buying a few she started bringing her "found" sewing machines for me to look over and bring back to life or let them go by the wayside. The Haitian project is a fascinating one where they are teaching the women to make reusable sanitary pads and diapers. Once they get the hang of it, create a market for the product, and go into business, these women become entrepreneurs and gain independence or at least contribute to their household budget. The sewing machines have been shipped over and when they have landed Ellen and others have gone to show them how to cut and sew these handy items.

So how does this all get funded? Ellen makes bags. Lots and lots of bags! Burlap, decorator fabric, webbing for straps, etc., are all bought on a large scale for a real bargain price and the assembly line begins. Ellen has at least three sewing machines at her disposal: Juki industrial,  Janome home machine, and a serger were in the following arrangement where Ellen demonstrated the Juki:

Ellen with her burlap on the Juki
The bags are wonderful and very popular now so she sells them at a coffee shop in Wisconsin and a few other places up here in Minnesota. During the winter months she makes mittens out of re-purposed sweaters, also brisk sellers.  Where does all of this take place? She's got quite a set-up in her lower level family room with shelves of fabric, cut portions, large cutting table (I was secretly jealous of that), along with her sewing machines:

Burlap bag parts
Even her husband has gotten into this endeavor, pounding in the grommets for the handles. And then there's a basic Kenmore at the edge of this part of the family room that a friend uses when she comes over to help! Of course, there also are the materials collected for the Haiti project stored there, too.

Sample of the bags hanging up when done
As generous as she always is, Ellen sent me home with some burlap so I could make some jar lid pincushions.

First try with burlap for a jar pincushion

Wow, what a vision that now has feet due to Ellen and her friends who have committed themselves to helping women learn to help themselves. As a parting comment, she told me "You know, my job just gets in the way of all I want to do." I hear ya, Ellen, I hear ya.

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