About Us

Inside Weaving Hope

 

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We get many questions about how Weaving Hope came about and what goes on.  The “how it came about” is simple: on a family sabbatical volunteering in Sri Lanka our founder saw these beautiful woven products, got talking to the lady who had set up the company, were invited round to see the factory and by the time we left felt compelled to set up a company to support them by importing their fabulous toys.  To explain what goes on, read on:

 

We were lucky enough recently to return to Sri Lanka and again visit the factories where our goods are made, this time with the newest member of the team - Anne.

 

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Newly Dyed Yarn Drying

 

The production methods really emphasise the highly skilled and sustainable working methods that we so value and that are such a big part of what matters to our customers too.

 

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Wood fired Boiler

  

The production methods are labour intensive, but not energy hungry.  This is great as it means more people are employed and less impact on the planet.  Take the heat used in the dying plant. 

Big log burners do all of the heating of the water for washing and dying.  The dying plant is set in a plantation and the wood sourced locally with planting to replace what is used.

The majority of the work is done in rural areas, where jobs especially for women are scarce and critical.  Studies show that money paid to women is spent on their families, and on education.

 

 

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Nowhere is the high skill labour v low energy clearer than when you visit one of the weaving plants.  Sheltered (it rains a lot in this part of Sri Lanka) but open walled which allows air circulation (it is very warm, high 30s when we were there), the weaving area requires no power at all.  The open walls eliminate the need for air conditioning as the air circulates.  The thread is wound on ingenious devices made in a very Heath Robinson way from old bicycles wheels.  The noise as you enter is extraordinary; not too loud but rhythmic. 

 

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A visit here is almost hypnotising, and a treat for all your senses: the percussive sound of the shuttle in the loom, the scent of the plants growing all around, but most of all the quick nimble fingers of the weavers, and the blur of the shuttle racing between the weft cloth.

 

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The ladies were friendly and welcoming, and Nicky was urged to sit and try.  They smiled and encouraged her, and though she did well, I’m not sure they will be hiring her in the near future.

 

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Conversations soon reveal just how labour intensive the process is.  It takes a day and great mathematical skill and dexterity just to set up the loom, with the warp threads carefully ordered and positioned to achieve the required pattern.

 

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The next day the weaver begins to shuttle the weft thread through, maintaining equal pressure on the loom, counting so as to know when to change threads to maintain the pattern.  The tension comes from pulling the shuttle through, and the directions of the threads is alternated by pressing on pedals.  We cannot emphasise enough how impressive it is to see a sheet of cloth appearing as if by magic from a series of threads, and all under human power.

 

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The final destination of the cloth is the factory where the fabrics are made up into the toys.  This factory is a big high ceilinged space with beautiful clay tiles.  The workers, again mostly women, sit in teams which they have named themselves: names like “Speedy”, “Quick” and “Rapid” and they all take real pride in what they do, smiling and chatting as they work.

 

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The canteen at lunch was a flurry of chatter and more grins.  In Sri Lanka “Lunch Packets” of rice and curry are made in the morning and carried in to work, traditionally wrapped in banana leaves, though often now in sheets of plastic.  The women sit together in the canteen rolling the rice and curry together with their fingers into little balls and eating them,  washing it down with mugs of hot sweet tea.

 

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In another area new materials are developed, continually trying to find innovative uses for the scraps so nothing is wasted.  Minimising waste not only makes economic sense but also further reduces environmental impact.

 

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The skill of the weavers is matched by the skill of those who turn the cloth into toys for us.

 

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Our favourite place though was the design room, and it was so exciting to sit, drawing ideas, choosing fabrics and marveling how quickly we had prototypes of our new products to take away.  We were privileged to be able to visit them, lucky to have met them the first time, and right to have set up Weaving Hope to support them.  The work places are fab, nearly as fab as the stuff they produce - but I guess just like Happy Chickens make better eggs it is inevitable that Happy Workers will produce better goods!

 

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