Thursday, April 24, 2014

How It's Made

Hi there!

Two things prompted me to pull this little post from the archives (and update it a bit) today. One, I have been watching How It's Made on the Science Channel. I am completely captivated to see how a pair of jeans comes to be or how rubber duckys are born, and two, I was adding a few new "oops" bags for sale on Facebook yesterday and I was wondering how much you knew about the production of our bags. SO, I thought maybe y'all might like to see our Signature Bags come to life. Cool? 

Great! A tiny bit of background, when No.41 started all of the women were unemployed and only two of them had ever sewn before (including me). I hired Medi (down there in the yellow) to come and live at the 41 house and teach the girls, the basics of sewing, for one month. Each Signature Bag is composed, start to finish, by them. Cutting, sewing, screen printing... but we'll get into all of that.

The day the doors of No.41 (aka my house) opened, there were 16 girls and 6 sewing machines. The ladies would take turns going between the machines (in the dining room) and learning some hand stitching (in the living room). As word spread and the program grew to 32 women, in just a few weeks, we also added some paper bead necklace making in the living room. 

The girls we able to learn another new trade, that required very little extra space or materials, and they were able to sell the necklaces to raise funds for more sewing machines. 

Below, Patrice is gaining skills by making little bags for her necklaces.

We make a pattern for everything (which doesn't always mean anything). :) Generally, we will talk out sizes or new styles with a couple of the girls in management. They will make a prototype, for approval, and then cut a pattern out of heavy paper to pass along and teach the rest of the crew. 

Below, Clarisse, previously a manager and now in university, is creating a pattern.

Ange adding interfacing to her straps
It was close quarters in the house for several months, as our group continued to grow. We were so thankful when, in a serendipitous turn of events, our landlord built what seemed to be the perfect house for our needs, right in our backyard! We jumped at the chance to make it ours and the girls got to spread out a bit. Once we had the extra space, and some extra money, we bought a machine for every girl!

Just in case you were wondering, three of the 41 girls live at our house and three more call it home when they aren't at university. Amy is currently the mother hen and Program Director in Rwanda, along with Jean d'Amour, our Project Manager.

Valentine U.
Jeanette and Zawadi
Valentine T.
When we first started screen printing bags, our screens came from Texas. Which wasn't ideal, but it was what I knew, at the time. Clarisse was our art student, so she was immediately up for the challenge of this strange new thing. One quick online tutorial and the girls were off. 

About 100 bags in, the screens began to crack, as they do. I began to freak, as I do. And Clarisse, as she does, was on it! 

She figured that she could probably make the screens from now on and that's exactly what she did! 

She asked me to print out the logos that she would transfer onto the 'green stuff' to make the stencil.

She, painstakingly, cuts out each letter with a razor blade.

Next, the 'green stuff' is transferred onto a screen, purchased in Kigali. It is attached with paint thinner (?) and is a nerve-racking process. If any part doesn't transfer correctly, and can't be repaired, the entire thing will have to be cleaned and recut.

In a perfect world, the bags are cut, printed, and then sewn. For various reasons, that doesn't always work out, so here are Therese and Clarisse printing on finished bags.

We buy house paint (which is harder to find in brown than you might think) and the girls thin it down a bit with water. The paint is applied to the screen and pulled through with a squeegee (that's a technical term).

And, viola! Great celebrations are had by all!

I hope you enjoyed our little behind the scenes tour. I would absolutely love to answer any questions you might have about what we do and I am excited to start blogging a bit more. If you have any questions or topics for a new post, please leave them in the comments below.

Happy Thursday, friends!! And go grab you an "oops!" bag at a great price!

P.S. If you're new around here, "I" am Tara and all of our beautiful photos are taken by Alison.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

41Day Wrap Up

I've been speechless about this for a while but, my goodness, 41Day was the best gift for so many reasons. It's been difficult to find the words to describe just how thankful we are for your participation in this movement. I hope you are sitting down because we raised $14,112 and funded 56,448 meals!! We also have 73 students who are fully funded for one year! That is just insane. That's world changing!

It is our whole heart at No.41 to prove how simple it truly is to change the world, for one. And last week we, YOU, did just that. As $2 and $3 donations poured in, from across the globe, (and $20 and $100, some of you are big eaters) we saw how quickly a little turns into a whole lot. Thank you is not enough, but a big, fat THANK YOU will have to suffice for now.

So, what's next? Well, we almost have term 2 of 3 fully funded, as far as food goes, and we have 73 students funded for a full year, but we are still looking for about 1,100 one-year sponsorships for $60, that's just $5 a month!! Would you be willing to share the cost of an average lunch, once a month, with a student? We are going to get these kids sponsored THIS month, then we can all go back to the regularly scheduled programming. 

What does that look like? First, you can share this post and our story with your friends. You all blew up social media last week and I got so many messages from your friends telling me how they heard about what we were doing.

You can host a trunk show. Next time you're hanging with your pals, tell them what we're doing, and we'll make sure you have all the info you need to do it.
You can sponsor a student. Or two. It's $60 one-time, or just $5 a month for a hot, healthy meal, every day, at school.
You can shop the shop. We have some fun, new items and each one has the number of meals it feeds attached to it.

We could not be more thankful for all you've done. This isn't possible without you. You are a world changer. You have changed our whole world. Have a great week!