Irish missionary nuns taught women to crochet lace in Andhra Pradesh, South India during the colonial period. It became a thriving cottage industry and eventually container ships of lace left south Indian ports for Europe and other parts of the world.
Our current partners, Surya and Satya of Emmanuel Handicrafts, have worked with village women to give them income for decades. Satya’s mother began this mission and established the first Fair Trade organization of its kind in south India to ensure that the women were being paid fair wages for their lace.
Unfortunately as world markets change, the poor are most often left out of that market. Machine-made lace from China destroyed their industry several years ago when wholesale orders from around the world literally stopped. The financial crisis of 2008 was a final blow, but Surya and Satya continually try to find new products to employ the women’s skills.
Eternal Threads first project in south India – Sofi Totes
Eternal Threads’ first project was Sofi Totes in which village women made plastic tote bags with their crochet skills. They now make many wonderful products that fit into our modern lifestyle like this beautiful silk poncho/shawl, while still honoring a timeless skill. AND, we still sell lace doilies, table cloths and table runners for those who love their Grandmother’s lace!!
Emmanuel Handicrafts has also trained young women in tailoring. Their skills are employed to make some of the quality products we carry made from jute, linen and cotton like this messenger bag with an appliqué crocheted from recycled sarees. A unique way to combine the women’s skills. A women’s cooperative makes the wonderful Kalamkari textiles by hand blocking with wooden stamps.
Part of the reason I started Eternal Threads was my love for quality handmade textiles and an admiration for the women who have mastered their craft even though they live in the most difficult circumstances imaginable. These skills are a lifeline for the poor who have no other means of employment or income…women who were denied the opportunity for an education, but who became proficient in a skill that is valuable.
Eternal Threads is proud to be a member of the Fair Trade Federation and celebrate October as Fair Trade month. Remember that when you buy Fair Trade handmade…you give livelihood and help preserve timeless skills. Some things from the past are worth keeping!!!
Click here to see the wonderful products made by the women in south India and read more about them.
I’ve been in Delhi, India for a week partnering with Sahayak and Onemaker, a long-time Eternal Threads friend and partner. Our purpose was to help develop a jewelry project for Sahayak, so that they might be able to employ women in a slum area of Delhi that desperately need an income to survive. A week is certainly not long enough to develop a project fully, but because the Sahayak team is so capable, I think they will be able to carry on and produce a jewelry line that will employ many women and please a lot of customers.
Onemaker, our partner who began the jewelry project in Afghanistan that we still support, now trains women in jewelry making for projects just like this one. I was here to give advice on design, etc. as a potential partner who would buy the products, and also to help source raw materials in the markets of Delhi that I am familiar with. Even thought it was a lot of work, I quite enjoyed it since I hadn’t been in Delhi for several years and the Sahayak team were a joy to work with.
Naro and Stephanie and I were the “sourcing” team. We spent four days trying to get a handle on what materials they could use for the jewelry line. Finding beads and design components is a lot of fun and fairly easy, but finding the components to make up the pieces is more difficult and they will have to spend quite a bit more time finding everything that they need.
We used all forms of transportation, but sometimes it’s just best to use a rickshaw to get where you want to go!!!
I am anxious to see their final designs and offer them to the women who support Eternal Threads and these worthy projects around the world. Hopefully we will have them in the warehouse by early June and online shortly thereafter.
Please keep this team in your thoughts and prayers as they work diligently to make this vision a reality. Hope isn’t just a feeling that we may have. It’s more tangible than that. Hope is what you give someone when you give them a skill, a sewing machine or a goat, tailoring training, literacy training…anything that can help them improve their lives and that of their families. It may begin as hope for the future, but it can in fact become a reality in the future. It takes hard work, creativity and endurance, but the rewards are worth it.
I’m anxious for you to have the opportunity to buy the jewelry these women make so you can be part of making their hope real!!!!