Stitch by Stitch

Contemporary handmade textiles from Kutch & The Himalayas

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SEWA embroiderer working on our Kukuben quilt.  From our Gujarati Embroidery Pinterest board.

SEWA embroiderer working on our Kukuben quilt.  From our Gujarati Embroidery Pinterest board.

We love Pinterest!  It's a fantastic way to share and discover visual information.

Whether you use Pinterest or not, we thought you might be interested to see the most popular pins from our website and Pinterest boards.  It's fascinating to see which images capture the imagination of others, and gives us a valuable insight into what really interests people about our textiles and the creative process behind them.

A montage of traditional Gujarati embroidery, by Graham Hollick.  From our Gujarati Embroidery Pinterest board.

A montage of traditional Gujarati embroidery, by Graham Hollick.  From our Gujarati Embroidery Pinterest board.

We use Pinterest not only to showcase our own products, but to tell the story behind our textiles and the people who make them.

Khamir patchwork quilt, made from organic cotton, showing the detailed hand-sewn kanthe stitching.  From our Maison et Objet board.

Khamir patchwork quilt, made from organic cotton, showing the detailed hand-sewn kanthe stitching.  From our Maison et Objet board.

In our blog, we often write about other people working with traditional global artisans, and creating contemporary decorative products.  Gone Rural is one such organisation, working with basket-weavers in Swaziland.  This inspired our popular Pinterest board, Basket weaving. 

Flouro Vases by Gone Rural, from our blog, and Basket Weaving Pinterest board.

Flouro Vases by Gone Rural, from our blog, and Basket Weaving Pinterest board.

Let us know if you have a Pinterest board, or a favourite Pin you'd like to share with us in the comments below!

Visit to a Gujarati Master Weaver

Indigo-dyed skeins of wool drying

Indigo-dyed skeins of wool drying

Lucky Graham is currently travelling in Gujarat, India, developing our new throw collection, as well as researching the incredible wealth of regional artisans and craftspeople for future Stitch by Stitch textile collections.

 

Shamjibhai

Shamjibhai

Earlier this week he visited renowned master weaver Shamjibhai, of Vankar Vishram Valji weavers.  Shamji and his family train and employ a community of around 90 hand loom weavers in Bhujodi, Gujarat, on pit looms which his family built after the earthquake of 2001.  The family is committed to preserving local, traditional weaving skills in this region.

Spinning wool.  The traditional pit looms can be seen in the background.

Spinning wool.  The traditional pit looms can be seen in the background.

Shamji will be weaving our new Desi blankets and throws, in fine, naturally dyed wool, which will then be sent to the SEWA embroiderers in Ahmedabad for them to embellish with lines of traditional Chireli Sankali, or Soi work.  We should have the first samples of completed blankets later this month.

Our blankets and throws ready to be sent for embroidery.  The wool is dyed naturally.

Our blankets and throws ready to be sent for embroidery.  The wool is dyed naturally.

In the meantime, we hope you enjoy some of these lovely photos Graham has emailed of his trip to Shamji's peaceful workshop in the desert!

Doing business, surrounded by Vankar Vishram Valji handiwork.

Doing business, surrounded by Vankar Vishram Valji handiwork.

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Yajibelena - Baskets for Life

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I recently discovered these wonderfully colourful wastepaper baskets by Yajibelena at Skandium.  Not only are they beautiful, but I was delighted to discover, they're produced in Burkina Faso as part of a self-help initiative set up by Danish basket weaver Eva Seidenfaden.

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After visiting the country 10 years ago, Eva decided to use her passion for basket weaving to help the local women, who are all skilled in traditional basket-weaving techniques, to make a sustainable living for themselves and their families.  This gives the women an alternative to low paid hard labour in one of Africa's poorest countries.

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"It has taken a number of years to get all details in order and the production and selling chain working, and now it is a self sustaining, working business"  Eva says.  The project has created high quality products which are produced on budget and delivered on time.

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As well as the wastepaper baskets designed and sold exclusively at Skandium, the women weave shopping baskets and bicycle baskets which are sold in local African markets and in Denmark.  50 women have produced over 3000 baskets so far.  The designs are based on a number of original Danish basket designs, but each weaver chooses the design they wish to work with, and adds their own patterns and colours.

Each basket sold pays a days wage for the maker - equal to that of a local bricklayer.

The wastepaper baskets are exclusive to Skandium, and are available online and in store at £49 each.

Thank you to Skandium for all images. 

 

Sustainable Lighting from Brazil

Junco Pendants

Junco Pendants

Exhibiting recently in the House of Detention at Clerkenwell Design Week in London, we spotted these funky, tactile lights by Brazilian company Fellicia.

The lampshades are made with natural materials grown in Santa Luzia do Itanhy in the Sergipe region in northeastern Brazil.  Local materials such as piaçaba and dende are derived from palm leaves (often used in broom making), and junco from reeds.   Artisans use these materials and traditional methods to make the lampshades to designer Kelley White's specifications.

Junco Table lamp made from reeds

Junco Table lamp made from reeds

The combination of contemporary design and traditional production and materials is interesting enough, but what is also fascinating is the structure of the business.  The products were created as a result of a research project by IPTI which examined the traditional skills of local artisans using local materials and traditional handcrafted production.  The goal of the project was to promote social and economic inclusion of some of the lowest paid members of the community, much like the projects we have worked on with embroiderers in India and weavers in Nepal.

Tranca de Piaçaba pendant light

Tranca de Piaçaba pendant light

Part of Fellicia's profits go directly to the Association of Artisans of Santa Luzia do Itanhy and to the scientific research institution IPTI, creating a truly sustainable business model.

 

New Desi Blanket Collection

Our new Desi blanket collection is coming along nicely.  We hope to have the blankets ready for launch later this year.  On his last trip to Gujarat, Graham met Shamji Vankar, master weaver of fine woollen textiles.  Shamji was filmed recently for BBC's Hidden Treasures of Indian Art, and interviewed by Griff Rhys Jones.  (Sadly, not available on iPlayer at the moment, but if you can get hold of a copy, it's well worth a watch).  Shamji's family run a weaving cooperative which employs over 90 local artisans, and is committed to teaching the handloom craft as a viable economic opportunity.

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Inspired by the natural dyes used in our Narayan collection, we wanted to exclusively use natural dyes again in this collection.  

We have asked our friends at SEWA to embellish the woollen lengths with several lines of traditional embroidered stitching running the length of the blanket.  I refer to these lines as train-tracks, but I must ask our artisans the proper name for this stitch!  We have sourced naturally dyed woollen embroidery yarns from Gujarat, and will use several colours in each blanket.  Graham will finalise the designs and colours when he visits Gujarat next month.

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There will be two sizes of blankets - the smaller throws will be 120 x 180cm, just right for throwing over the end of the bed, or for snuggling under on the sofa, and larger blankets of 180 x 220cm, which will be large enough to cover a king-size bed.

 

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The throws will be available in 5 colours - indigo blue, Lac red, Khaki, chocolate brown and natural cream, and the large blankets will be multicoloured in two colourways - Lac red, Khaki and chocolate brown, or Indigo, Khaki and chocolate brown. 

We'd love your feedback on the collection?  Which is your favourite colour? 

 

Sneak Preview: New Wool Blankets

We're currently working on a new collection of wool blankets which will be woven in Gujarat, and embroidered by our friends at SEWA (the amazing embroiderers behind our (Peacock Sportif collection).

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Our starting point is some beautiful wool fabric woven by a master weaver in Gujarat whom Graham discovered on one of his earlier trips to the region.  The wool is dyed with natural plant dyes, such as the exotically named Madder, which gives the deep red colour in the photograph.

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The fabric is woven in strips, and then several strips are sewn together to create blankets and throws large enough to cover a bed, or wrap around yourself in front of the telly.

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We wanted to continue the natural colours into the embroidered embellishment.  A traditional stitch, passed down through generations of women in the Kutch region, is used to add a lively touch to the gorgeous fabric.  

The blankets are still a work in progress, but we hope to have them ready later this year to coincide with the colder months.  

Join our mailing list if you would like to know when they are launched!

PechaKucha Night at the Design Museum

Graham Hollick, our designer, was invited to speak at London's Design Museum last week at the PechaKucha x Fair Trade talk.  Organised by illustrator Chris Haughton, the quick-fire talk was given by 10 designers, entrepreneurs and organisations involved in ethical and sustainable trading.  Some of the designers were directly involved in Chris's project to produce a range of fair trade hand-knotted rugs in Nepal for his company Node (read more in our blog post here), whilst others, like Stitch by Stitch, spoke about creative projects they'd undertaken applying the principles of fair trade. 

The PechaKucha format allows each speaker to show 20 slides, each for just 20 seconds, which ensures a concise, waffle-free presentation!  Here, we are pleased to share Graham's presentation about the fascinating projects which led to our Peacock Sportif and Narayan textile collections:

Design Museum launches fair trade rug collection

Launching next week at the Design Museum, London, is a collection of 18 handmade fair trade rugs, designed by 18 artists.  The project is the brainchild of Chris Haughton, children's book author and illustrator who has worked in fair trade for the past 9 years.  He set up Node in 2010, a non-profit, social business producing rugs.

Rug design by Sanna Annukka

Rug design by Sanna Annukka

Rug design by Chamo

Rug design by Chamo

Chris worked with the Kumbeshwar Technical School in Kathmandu, Nepal, to produce the hand-knotted rugs.  KTS was founded by Siddhi Bahadur Khadgi in 1983.   Khadgi was appalled by the fate of members of the "Podee", the lowest caste in Nepal (also referred to as "untouchables") whose role in the local community is to clean the streets before dawn, lest others catch sight of them, which is considered bad luck.  The family studied how to work with the "podees" and set about using their wealth to help them out of poverty, by setting up a weaving school for adults.

As well as fair wages, the adult weavers are given an education.  The profits from the sales of their rugs support a school for 260 children, and an orphanage.  

The collection of rugs will sell from the Design Museum shop and online.  The artists were chosen for the diversity of their design work, and its graphic suitability to rug-making.  They include Donna Wilson - Elle Decoration's British Designer of the Year 2011; Sanna Annukka - the Finnish artist well known for her prints and textile designs for Marimekko; Jon Klassen, illustrator and author of the New York Times bestseller "I want my hat back", and graphic design studio Neasden Control Centre.

The rugs are produced using a traditional Tibetan hand-knotting technique.  Pure Tibetan wool is hand spun and hand dyed with natural, non-polluting dyes.  Each design is made in a limited edition of 10.  Node will also make one-off rugs.

Stitch by Stitch is honoured to have been invited to talk at the Pecha Kucha x Fair Trade talk on 4 March at the Design Museum.  Speakers include some of the artists who worked on the Node project, and others, like ourselves, working in a sustainable way and in the spirit of fair trade.

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