Stitch Cross Visit: To Learn About Naturally Dyed Silk Scarves

by Jessica

Two weeks ago 3 staff members and 5 of the most dedicated and engaged embroiderers embarked on a mammoth road trip to visit a silk weaving cooperative who make naturally dyed silk scarves in Soatanana, in the central highlands of Madagascar. This trip was incredibly exciting, not least because the embroiderers had never left their region before but because of the ambitious programme and the enormous potential for learning.

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From the left: Esterline, Hambrolline, Virginie, Guerceline, Paula, Rosine and Jess on the road to Ambositra

This was a team effort, following many months of planning, some postponing and the sad news that the project coordinator would be unable to attend the trip. The group ended up being Sainte Luce Community Agent Sylvie, Stitch Project Assistants Paula and Jess, President Esterline, Secretary Guerceline, Rosine, Virginie and Hambrolline.

The objectives were to share knowledge on the running of a sustainable textiles business and how to run a strong and resilient association, to discuss challenges and solutions, to create a lasting relationship and to understand Stitch’s position in the broader context of craft associations in Madagascar.

weaving a naturally dyed silk scarf
Using a weaving machine

More specifically the team aimed to find solutions to a few problems that they hoped could be explored through peer-to-peer learning. One such problem is how to ensure objectivity in the quality control process of products. As so many Stitch members and their associates are related, it is a constant challenge to reject products that do not meet the required standards.

modelling naturally dyed handmade silk scarf
Madame Charline sporting a scarf she has made using natural dyes

Another thing the team were really keen to learn is how the cooperative organise their finances. As the sales from Stitch embroidery continue to soar and the association moves more towards independence it is increasingly necessary for the association to have a pool of their own money, under their joint control.

silk weavers soatanana madagascar
5 of the Soatanana weavers who attended our meetings

The team were welcomed so generously by Monsieur George from the NGO Ny Tanantsika and the weavers of the two cooperatives Tambatra and Firaisakina. The weavers were were honest and constructive in their advice. The two cooperatives work together and produce naturally dyed, handmade silk scarves from silk cocoons. Truly handmade, ethical textiles! The two days of meetings with the embroiderers was followed up with a full day of debrief meetings and planning for the dissemination of learning to the rest of the association in Sainte Luce.

handmade, natural textile shop
Outside the Voajanahary shop in Ambositra

The trip was incredibly constructive and both the 5 embroiderers who attended, and the 3 staff members learnt a lot. There were many laughs and a whole lot of learning! We would like to thank everybody from Feedback Madgascar, Ny Tanantsika and the weavers of Soatanana for being so generous and welcoming. Read more about the silk weaving project and how you can be involved. You can also read more specifically about the silk weavers of Soatanana.

women's silk weaving cooperative madagascar
After the final meeting, looking forward to working together!

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