Cameroon Task Force

Sewing 2015: Part 3 of 3

Based on our belief that women can use beautiful African fabrics to sew items that can be sold in local markets, the Kribi Sewing Project was established in 2012. Selling items at a fair local price, the money earned would be welcome income in this country with many needs and few resources.

Seamstress Party

(Sewing 2015)

Sharing Joys and Laughters

The rest of the team was busy putting together the Person Energy Transportation (PET) units and handling distribution of 700 pair of eyeglasses, painting the Wellness Center and other activities while we sewed. But we did not work 100% of the time. One day was a scheduled boat ride to a village in the forest where some Pygmy people live. I passed on the trip as I have been before and I’m a little leery of water travel in dugout canoes.

Barb's Room

Instead we had a seamstress party in my hotel room (with air conditioning), and shared all the specialty sewing items from my suitcase. We had a great time as I shared the gadgets Americans use for sewing. We laughed, shared tips, ate a western style lunch prepared by the hotel kitchen and had a great day.

Back to making bags …. We are calling them “Futu” a French word meaning “marketing bag”. The bag I developed evolved through many designs in my sewing shop before I settled on the one I brought to Kribi.  It had to be:

  • made from local African fabrics and supplies found at the local open air market
  • sewn on a treadle sewing machine (that has only one variety of stitch that goes forwards and backwards)
  • strong & durable
  • reversible
  • washable
  • strong enough so the handles cannot be easily pulled out,
  • finished seams so the edges can’t fray or the seams pull out,
  • inexpensive to make
  • quick to complete

And, the finished product should have a bit of mystery as to how it is constructed and why it works so well so it cannot be easily copied.

Bag Day!

(Sewing 2015)

In addition to a paper pattern, I brought the bag sewn in several stages of completion. Ope, Josyan and Laurence studied the muslin samples. We discussed the materials, fiber content of the polypropylene handles, width and placement of handles, seam finishing, the possibilities of adding zippers, snaps and pockets. They constructed one, and then they taught the ladies to sew bags.

Now, my job is to step back and see how the Kribi ladies will grow and change my bag into one local women will buy. If quality control can be maintained these bags will be very popular in Kribi and a market for them will evolve inside Cameroon.

Until Next Time

Far too soon our sewing time was over. The ladies wrapped up their projects and we had a one-day market to sell their goods. The remembered how successful the sale was at the end of the prior workshop and were eager work to produce as many things as they could to sell at the Saturday market. They were so eager that in fact we a huge assortment to choose from as well as a few quality control issues that happened from making too much, too fast. But every lady came away with some pocket money and obvious pride in their work. I see the possibility of seamstresses from this project.

Not long after we returned home I received an email with plans to establish a sewing school at the Wellness Center. Staffed by our master seamstresses Ope, Josyan and Laurence they are planning a full teaching schedule and diplomas upon completion. Project funds will be used to purchase a few more sewing machines (treadle and electric), fabric and supplies. And, they will set aside some space to sell the things they make to local women and visitors to the community.

Sewing workshop

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