Bangladesh Artisans

Kantha is a traditional form of embroidery that’s popular in Bangladesh and the Indian states of West Bengal. For hundreds of years, women in India and Bangladesh used kantha stitching to create something to keep them warm. Using a small, straight running stitch, they took old pieces of cloth and sewed them together to create blankets, throws, scarves and shawls.

kantha throw

Now, a skill passed down from generation to generation, kantha refers to both the tradition of creating a beautiful and useful product out of discarded items, as well as the kantha craft itself, which features a signature running stitch. While kantha traditionally refers to upcycling old materials, some kantha items are now also made with new fabrics.

kantha throw

This beautiful, reversible kantha throw was handstitched by Najmeen. Najmeen is 29 years old and has been working with Prokritee for five years. Prokritee provides work for women in Bangladesh with little or no income. Makers work in a safe environment and are given a fair wage, which helps them take care of their families and send their children to school. Prokritee provided training for Najmeen and taught her how to do kantha stitching. This particular throw is made with recycled cotton fabric purchased from a local market in Bangladesh. It took Najmeen almost six days to make this kantha throw!

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Before Najmeen joined Prokritee, she and her family struggled to make ends meet.

“We didn’t have enough income to pay for food or give our children an education. We didn’t have enough money for medicine.”

After joining Prokritee though, things got better for Najmeen and her family.

“I am now able to buy good food and clothes for my family. I can now pay for my children’s education.”

Najmeen’s dream for the future is to continue giving her children an education so they can be literate and have successful futures.

kantha throw

Purchasing a kantha product is a wonderful way to reduce waste and empower makers like Najmeen. Visit our website to check out all our kantha throws, blankets, scarves and shawls.

During Guatemala’s civil war, the village of Chontola lost more than 40 husbands, fathers and brothers to the military’s “scorched earth” campaign in 1982. Many women became widowed and had few ways to support their families. These women were overwhelmed with farming, childcare duties and extreme poverty.

With nowhere else to turn, two Mayan Quiché women approached Diego Chicoj Ramos, a Methodist church pastor, and asked him and his wife, Juana, for help. Though their church had been burned to the ground and they had little to offer, they managed to secure seven pounds of thread. A small group of women took this thread and started to weave small items to sell in nearby markets. Soon, they were bringing income back to the community.

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In 1986, with new buyers in Canada, the U.S. and Europe, the group decided on the name, Ruth and Naomi, in reference to the Bible story of two widows who were without resources, but worked hard and survived.

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Today, Ruth and Naomi is comprised of six workshops, representing more than 60 makers. These makers weave bright pieces of cloth on looms in workshops and at home, creating products such as purses and bags. They use traditional Mayan huipiles, which are handwoven, embroidered blouses from the Chontola area, to create their beautiful, handcrafted designs.

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Ruth and Naomi also provide youth with scholarships, making it possible for teens to complete high school and go on to university.

mother and daughter

Visit our website to check out these stunning, handwoven designs from resilient makers in Guatemala.

Celestino

This is Celestino. He was living with his wife and young daughter in Santa Barbara, Peru when political violence forced them to leave.

“They killed my brother-in-law, a cousin and a nephew. Two other brothers-in-law went missing and another was put in jail. Three of my sisters are widows.”

Celestino left Santa Barbara with his wife and daughter and moved to a village outside of Huancavelica, his hometown. There, he bought a rustic loom and taught himself how to weave.

Celestino

In 2001, he started working with Allpa, a fair trade organization that aims to improve the living standards of handicraft producers by providing technical help, product development advice, skills training, tools and equipment. His work involved developing products and fulfilling export orders. Today, Celestino runs a sophisticated workshop with Allpa, providing good jobs to over 70 weavers (using improved looms) in Huancavelica, one of Peru’s poorest cities.

alpacas

Makers at Celestino’s workshop create textiles with alpaca fleece. Alpacas are raised in the foothills of the Andes, near Lake Titicaca in Peru and Bolivia. Their fleece is sheared by Peruvian herdsman. Alpaca fleece is hand spun into yarn, dyed by hand and then handwoven by makers using an ancient technique. Each throw is then washed and ironed. It takes three days and five people to make an alpaca throw.

Watch this video to see some of the process.

*Video created by Allpa and used with their permission.

Unlike sheep’s wool, alpaca fleece does not contain lanolin, so it’s naturally hypoallergenic, warmer and softer.

Celestino is proud to say that his textiles travel around the world and reach homes in Europe, North America, Japan and Australia.

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Stay warm and cozy this winter with beautiful, handcrafted alpaca throws.