Sunday, November 09, 2014

Sunday again...

In the office again, our accountant is down from Delhi....still inching our way through getting all our books absolutely ship shape, tedious but necessary. other pending paperwork expeditions like the Fair Trade registration and the library registration are just lurking on the hopeful list.

Being quite I also have time to work on getting proper inventories up to date with Ranjit.

All so anal, details, details, details yet I can see as we grow into being a proper business, it will enable us to know what is happening, be able to estimate production times and let clients know when they can expect delivery, being able to calculate this info will mean a lot less sleepless nights for me.

Already I can see how much hand stitching we can do in a month,  how much is waiting to be done and that we can comfortably increase our Stitching Ladies gang by 50%+ and still be sure of keeping the work up to everyone. Previously we have been nervous of taking on more women because we see them as a big responsibility, they depend on the income.

Now refining our record keeping on which stitching is going where, so we know what to expect back in and so when it can go out to clients ....We have a record of what wages we paid per previous month, but trying to answer what is out now takes a lot of flicking through the Stitching Ladies book....a head ache.

Ranjit looks after this side of things and he has a good mind to understand systems. Bliss.

After that I have the cutting room. GGGGRRRRRRRRRR. Mr Pelad our cutting man makes very nice patterns, properly graded, nice fit.
He does not process instructions very well and really, watching him, he could not organize a piss up in a brewery.
So trying to get a system going so I know he understands our cutting programme, can find the right pattern etc, etc is sending me a bit nuts.
We are fiddling, trying to juggle people around, use the skills they do have and find who will fill the gap of thinking and record keeping.
Quietly we are grooming Ranjit to be workshop overseer in time. He is maturing nicely, his people skills are maturing and he has worked with us for 4 nearly 5 years now- we know what he is like.
 Amongst organizational headaches- growing pains when we look back on it in the future it has been a pleasing week as well,
22 visitors for a nuno felt the Studio... we sued cut up saris as the base fabric, some started to felt up fine....they needed to take them home and finish the kneading of them....some the saris were not co-operating so well. I can see ways to tweak if we are to do these tasters again.
we have been hit for more requests/orders for our hand stitch work than I ever dreamed of...hence a lot of flustering and REALLY working on our systems.

Another joy of rural India....internet connection is so patchy even with the expensive government service and the Camel Fair on top of pictures for you today.

Off to do inventories......organize, organize, organize...our motto.
You know it is serious, even Praveen who is loath to do office work is on the band wagon. That man is a keeper. :)

Sunday, November 02, 2014


The Story has not changed much....
mad rush here in the studio....good news is our new print person is working out real fine.....learning so much about tweaking the constancy of the ink to improve prints.
Originally block print was done on fine cottons...this week I have been printing onto absorbent cotton knit material...causes a few hiccups- it sops up ink, so is quite wet and takes ages to dry....add that to overcast days and it is a head ache. Slows everything down significantly...
getting there, I have to keep saying to myself....
I'll show you some prints and samples in the next few days- promise.

Today is Sunday and supposedly my day off, I am at the workshop...I have a mountain of saris to keep sorting....but a little time to sit and daydream first.

Our first Indian Inspiration Creative Camp is at the end of February next year....

we intend to create a space for people to come and play- a studio away from your studio type idea, line it with things we can do here in India that are special and create a space and assistance for our guests to work that into what they like or want to do.

So there is pre-planning to do
  • draw up a design to get made into Indian slippers....the village just up the road...very bumpy road to be truthful is home to many skilled shoe makers, so if we take a cartoon to them within a week or so they will be able to return a pair of hand embroidered leather slippers.
  •  I have a trunk of bits and pieces that might be interesting to use in stitching....for myself I am thinking textile broaches...wonder what will inspire others.
  •  we have a weekend planned in Jaipur, based around visiting and experimenting in Rambabu-ji's indigo vat....
  • Part of the Pre-trip planning revolves around designing a block for printing [and taking home later]....we'll get it carved and oiled ready to go. I know if I was a visitor I would jump at being able to print a mountain of cloth...I have always been that type of crazy though


  • Our friend Sanju will be joining the group for a few days....she will share ideas/ skills to do with her Sujani embroidery....I want to be able to show her some of my ideas inspired by Toile de Jouy ...I am plan to have made a block based on a machine embroidered sketch I did of would be cool to stitch back into the print. I tried this out a few years ago now and never had time to follow the idea up...I figure this will be my chance....


    This is a picture I found on the web [sorry not sure who] I must admit to a small obsession with Toile de Joule for a while and my June visit to Paris just fuelled it!
    • My mate Dawn is coming along to help....she is that type of crazy too, but much more into eco dyeing and journal more skill sets to share. Part of the Jaipur week end will include a visit to a paper mill and supplies for journals, dyeing...we will see where inspiration travels.

    We have some lovely guests signed in and still room for more, you're welcome to join us.
    I will still be at the workshop should they need me but plan to schedule myself off production work altogether so I can work with our visitors and sit around a play on ideas as well.
    Can't wait to get onto that block design, I have more than enough hand embroidered shoes is raaaaaatttthhhhhherrrrrrr exciting commissioning a pair.
    I have a page on Pinterest dedicated to the camp...but a lot of my other boards overlap a lot, the one about indigo, the one about dreaming blocks...our latest print board...lots

    off to sort saris now....

    Tuesday, October 14, 2014


     Life is a blur...some little time in the print room which is good....finally I have easily accessible space to work in...then it just takes time fiddling around to find combinations and ideas that work.
    One of our staff members, a skilled worker but a very difficult personality to deal with...egotistical and often looking for ways to manipulate people is finally gone.
    We have hung in with him, explained our problems and tried to get him into line but finally enough is enough and ohh does it make a difference not having a dominating personality in the machine room trying to muck things around.

    Such a relief.....and now other people can settle into their roles with out stress.
     You can't see the tail/ handle....little Mouse Purse.... used up the squares we stitched years ago....great size for a small sewing kit or pencils or stuff.
     ooohhh the joy, print more problem to sort but we are onto it.
    We love block print, it is so versatile, easy to do, minimal clean up and obviously hand work. For a long time we have worked with Mrs Nandu, unfortunately for a long time we have had many hiccups with her about quality. When her mind is on the job she can do a reasonable job...increasingly this has not been happening.
    One of the biggest reasons for the new print room was to have quality control at our finger tips. To be polite we had to offer a job here and we hoped with it being under our nose, and no distractions we could ensure care and quality.....not happening.
    She seems to think we are silly some how and stories about bad ink, rubbish blocks etc will be brushed off. It is so frustrating and disappointing once again to have to go through this.
    I must admit the anxiety levels of will work for good or will it once again be rejected is getting to me. We pay her the same amount a man fully skilled would get. whilst we could make allowances for speed of work, sloppy work and excuses are not acceptable.
    So hard to deal with but today is the day, and employing a reliable person will take away the worry, speed up work and increase productivity we have such a backlog of printing work to get through!
     Anyway some of my experiments on our lovely Bihar handloom. Mr Ansari has been a lot of work for Praveen to chat him through quality, and sending exactly the same thing each time, no marks and working out how much fabric we can expect....Mr Ansari is very careful, there might not be written lists and proper bills coming through to us but a phone call and it is at his fingertips. So we have Sumeet our office guy ringing and preparing his invoices our end.
     Making great headway in that department.
    new prints to show.....samples happening and many small jobs in the machine room at the moment...time consuming to do small runs but it works for a smaller customers and helps them build their client base so we can all hope for more.
    Amongst all this we are trying Etsy as our shopping outlet- it is a dedicated site for handmade and busy so hopefully it works for us....slowly filling shops with
    Watts Wright Designs graffiti stuff, you know our supplies shop Glitz and PiecesTasty Old Chooks Clothes still needs some TLC but it is happening... and The Stitching Project has the tide coming in....tell your mates about us, please :)
    And another quilt top coming together square by square.....liking this idea a lot....
    oh well off to run around like a crazy woman again....
    amongst all this staff are madly cleaning as well.....6 weeks of rain leave a lot of damp around the place and with Diwali coming all needs to be cleaned and freshened for the new year. BBBBYYYYEEEE

    Wednesday, October 01, 2014

     The last few weeks have been huge....running our Stitching workshop, training new women, madly scrambling to finish off orders and get it out the door, and time to host various is the silly season!!
     Fantastic tie and dye by the Teachers Education Tour and a night of laughs cooking dinner and enjoying gypsy dancers....
     We met a group of University of Technology students in Jaipur and spent 2 days playing indigo experiments and then back to the workshop for a 10 day printing intensive.
     great group, we are so enjoying seeing what they are creating, the time to focus on the challenge at hand away from the busy world of University is really paying off.

    We have another group we have organized a trip for doing yoga each day in Pushkar, they are coming to visit tomorrow, so will be great to touch base. The yoga teacher was once my student many, many moons ago...I so enjoy seeing the wonderful young woman she has grown into.

    Amongst all this is fiddling around, continuing to work on better understand our book keeping system.... we need to know what we have at hand, what processes need to happen to it, who has ordered it, filling orders, filling all the one million and one forms to export it, or all the taxes for selling in India.... never ending paperwork.
    Most importantly we need to be bale to analyse what is happening business wise, cash flows etc and plan to keep the work coming in , being made in a timely manner and getting dispatched on time.
    This is to safe guard the work for our gang and ourselves- we all need to earn an income.
     Next hurdle is form filling and starting the accreditation process with Fair Trade Forum-India.....more paperwork!!
    next week when the studio is free I am going to run away and hide up stairs and print up a storm!! Silver lining.
    and, and , and, I think I have a friend coming to visit who will help get the library project up and running....I figure if she is here and keen to lend a hand then the Indian paperwork and registration can keep taking its own time, we will get books, cover them, catalogue them and start hauling them around to schools.....fingers crossed.

    could do with a good snooze - but happy, happy, kushi, kushi

    Tuesday, September 16, 2014

     Life is just a blur.....wwwwwwhhhhhhhhoooooooosssssssshhhhhhhhhh
    is all I hear.
    I went up to Delhi for a training session organized by AIACA, the group that certify us for Craftmark, focused on things I never thought I would need to think about in my life.....and quite frankly if it was not for our responsibilities to all the people we create work for I would avoid it like the plague!
    Costing, indirect costs, direct costs, entity legal structures, production planning, being up to date with Government requirements for taxes etc and India has so many things to be aware of...always something new we have not heard of.
    So with my head bursting from all this, we realised we need better procedures for all our book work and education in this area we have been creating a system as we go along, then refining things as we go. Really trying to re-invent the wheel!
     Sushil a  good friend of our nephew Sunil is an accountant and he came down for the weekend....went through our book keeping like a dose of salts.
    Wow, many things we had right, a bit of refinement is all that is needed and other things we have not even had a chance to work out yet.
    Brilliant. is a melee of chopping into and re-working books. Getting it all ship will be so  much for usable soon.
    BUTTTTTTTTTTTT OOOOOOOOHHHHHHH bookwork is not my strongest love.
     All I want to do is run away, up to my print room and play new samples.
    It is a carrot that is getting a bit soggy from over dangling.....
    a little therapeutic stitching each evening keeps the dream alive and has netted this new indigo quilt top.....a tumbling block one pending....

    The first pleasure of each day is breakfast with our tortoises, I have let the bigger ones out into the garden area....lots of space and different things to nibble and yet here they are waiting on the step for me to come out.
    Back to the grind stone.
     Ohhh and tour season starts next week, we have 4 running in the next month, lots of lovely visitors here and much to watch from the distance as they have a lovely taste of our type of India!

    Monday, September 01, 2014

    Bhuj break.

     On the train to head home...we visited Bhuj early last year and loved the area...but it seemed so remote we wondered when we would ever be able to visit again.
    As a member of Craftmark [AIACA] we were asked what help do we need, what do we want to learn. Our response was ideas for managing larger number of women, we do it all ourselves and just can't keep up with things.
    Can I just add AIACA are a fabulous organization to be a part of, they really live up to their mandate- we so appreciate them.
    Early in our stitching we had an incident where one of the women was telling us she was taking work for her sisters- really she was farming it out, her husband pretending to be Praveen and ripping the women off 50% of the money we were paying, that along with issues of quality has made us reluctant to hand the interactions with women over to anyone.
    Craftmark organized for us to meet with 2 very large organizations that work with literally 1000s of women....
    We need a field worker...some one to run around on a regular basis who knows the work and how to show /train stitchers and a head stitcher in each village. We can see the hierarchy needed now to support quality control, training and support of new women.
    Kind of things we already knew but time out and hearing the voice of experience will hopefully help us grow more easily.
    Being out there and a car to get around we had the chance to visit other workshops and talk to businesses as well...we have found a wool weaver who does a good quality flat weave-something we have wanted for some time to experiment with for jackets,
    Caught up with Sufiyan Khatri [ family of the most amazing Ajraak work] for tea, made a great contact with a tie and dye guy and a batik man.....Creative Arts Safaris could well have a new tour offering opening up now we know how close the area is via train....
     Another feature of Bhuj was its nearness to the coast and the change for a few days R&R at the beach.
    Truthfully we did little more than sit and look at the beach for a few hours, eat fresh fish and slob around in our hotel room watching TV, reading books and a little stitching for me.

    Flamingos to be seen from our window was an added excitement and watching the tide come in and go out....yep bliss.
    We learnt a lot through meeting people and having the time for us to talk about our stitching workshop but I think the best thing we learnt was how easy it is to get to Mandvi and a beach escape.
    We can work a full day, catch the night sleeper, sleep well, have 2 days there and catch the night train home arriving back at 6.00am in the morning we could roll into the workshop at our regular hour.
    Just the thought of this will be sustaining in our busiest times.

    Friday, August 22, 2014


    My mate Dijanne has a lovely dream...half reality....her work is fantastic and her attention to detail and background info amazing...I have seen the small book she did on the Sentinel's-  beautiful work.
    I am giving her book a big plug. I want the copy I have ordered one for myself and the 2 copies for friends to become a reality. I know they are going to very much appreciated gifts....not exactly a surprise because both mates read this blog and will probably guess...but hey!
    have a look, lend your support, I am sure you will enjoy the results 
    here is the link

     Finally Praveen has let me explode upstairs...Ok I had to give him a big elbow in the side and barge in...he wanted to wait for the tables to be installed, I could not stand it any here are saris across the print room floor
     off in the distance is our new office- still got to drag stuff up there....we are so busy downstairs stitching and organizing things....
     Views from the verandah...starting to feel like home with drying saris draped everywhere.
    so excited to think we will have a print room very soon....I am bursting with ideas to try and will not have to waste precious time drag around to Nandu's place. Nandu has agreed to come and work for us mornings, her son Vijay can keep the printing going at home, she will have regular income and being here we can keep an eye on quality issues we have had with her.
    madly trying to employ more tailors and a helper and a samples lady....chasing sari sellers all over the place....normal days in the workshop.