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.

No comments:

Post a Comment