Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Rewards and encouragement

Here I am writing from a comfortable lounge room in Australia.  What an overwhelming world of abundance… However, i have some lovely news to share.  I was checking facebook, and noticed that the weekly sunset market had put up some images from their final night this year.  So i browsed through the photos and to my surprise saw this:
 381717_192807094145681_127511660675225_387195_1913018846_n At first I thought the photographer had made a mistake and put up a photo from earlier in the year.  But as I looked harder I noticed a new dress,  and started to think that the bellekria women actually made it to the market by themselves!! How cool.
Another exciting picture confirmed it …392077_192809520812105_127511660675225_387217_1541935781_n
Here is Sinta receiving a certificate for “Most Creative Handicrafts”… YAY!! Apparently there were 4-5 certificates awarded to stall holders for various things.  A great encouragement to Bellekria.  I am sure that they all felt very proud. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Nappy covers? Covered!

A few months ago Bellekria received a shipment of boxes.  These included 2-3 boxes of PUL fabric remnants and a bulk load of special “fold over elastic” – it has a crease line down the centre so it can be used like bias binding, as well as stretched to produce gathering.   I bought it because it was such a bargain and I was sure I would think of something to use it for.   Anyway here’s one of the many ways we have used it so far:  Nappy Covers!
Here they are called popok’s and are used with a piece of folded cloth inside.  They don't even have safety pins, let alone fancy “nappy snaps” or even fancier modern fitted cloth nappies.  So they are really excited about this product.  We made some samples and the same afternoon a visitor popped her head in and ended up buying 2.  We took some to the market and have had a few people question if we actually made them ourselves – here in Timor.  Because they look like something imported.  In other words they look too good to be produced here in Timor! I think that is a compliment to us, but its a bit derogatory to poor little Timor Leste.  We charge the very expensive rate of $4. About an average days wage. But word is that alternatives sell for around $11 in the supermarkets.  So i guess we are providing a bargain!DSCF3040
They are very simple to sew, apart from the fact that you need to stitch the elastic with a special zig zag stitch, which is only available on an electric machine, which only works when the power is on…Oh well.  We still manage to make them!
A funny note, in Australia you can buy velcro by the metre in separate sides, so that if you need more of one side eg the soft side you just buy more of that half.  Well here, it comes together.   Even when i tried to buy a whole roll of the soft side, they refused.  SO I have had to buy an equal amount of the hook side which unless i come up with some very creative ides may end up being thrown out….But I think its cheaper to buy both rolls here than to buy a roll of the soft side in OZ.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Tardy tardy – late late

DSCF2867 (2)Managing Bellekria - a small sewing businessOh its been so long since I've posted a blog.  Our internet has been quite frustrating and then the times when it is working well we are pushing just to catch up on emails and maintain our main blog (bacons ba timor) , so my poor bellekria blog has been sadly neglected.  Things have been humming along, and our time here this year is coming to an end.  We are flying to Australia this Saturday for about 6 weeks.  We are hoping to return here late January.  I have had many discussions with the women, and still aren't sure what to do while i am away.  They suggested the sewing room close down until i return.  Its tempting, as its just makes it simpler for me.  But I am not sure its best for the business side of things.  I'm guessing they would be happy to have a few weeks off.  So we are still undecided whether to cut down to 1-2 days a week, or open full time for a few weeks, or closed, but Sinta available by phone…. Ahh i really need to organise this!  My concern is that i will not be here to pay them at the end of the month.  (as of today the plan is they stay open and i pay them when i get back.)
Anyway – the market trips had some interesting stories the last 2 weeks.  Two weeks ago IMGP0367 we arrived and set up, and soon after nightfall the power went out – no lights! Made       window shopping a bit difficult in the pitch black :)  We all got out our mobile phones and lit up the wares as buyers bravely walked around.  However by 9:00 it was still a black out, and word was not encouraging the possibility of it returning, so we packed up early and came home – not much had sold at all but i guess that's the nature of life.
This past week we had quite a variety of truck issues.  Kind of funny when you stand P1050154detached from it.  (We are currently trying to sell the truck and have some funds donated to purchase a better vehicle) Anyway we still sold $50 worth of products which is a nice boost, and helped clear out some stock.  A number of customers oohed and aahed over the products which is always so encouraging to the girls.  

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Custom clothing – your wish is my command

None of the women have had much previous experience with sewing clothing.  Earlier this year they developed the school skirts and then the school shirts. And of course we had the cheif’s wedding dress.  And the batik smocked dresses. … And with the amazing influx of beautiful fabrics inspiration has been bursting out of the boxes! :)
We also had some visitors in September requesting custom clothing. So they have slowly been trying more and more styles. 
Israel was desperate to get his dream designer pants sewn up.  And he was very proud to wear them!
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Sinta and Novi work together to produce some lovely garments.  They are always improving in their shaping/cutting and finishing, although i still have “Oh Dear'” moments. ;)
DSCF3043It has been very exciting watching their creativity flow, and seeing their skills develop.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Our First “franchise” effort…

I just realised I haven't shared this exciting story with you all yet…
DSCF3028Mateus is a young Timorese man we have been assisting a little.  He has been developing a children's education centre in a village called Liquidoe.  He employs 6 people to run an extra curriculum program after school a few times a week.  They also provide a very nutritious meal to the children.  He has been wanting to give his employees extra work, and asked Bellekria if we could train 2 of the young women to sew.
So two very shy women arrived to soak in as much as they could over 3 days.
Sweet Sinta was very excited to host them, and Novi and Anna all pitched in to help them develop “soft feet” as they call it.  Getting the rhythm of the treadle machine.   They worked hard at it, and by the last afternoon were able to create a shoulder bag and a small purse each to take home.  Sinta asked me to print out a certificate, which i did (on pink cardboard of course!)DSCF2997    DSCF3036 DSCF3038 We had a small semi formal presentation of the certificates (Level 1) with Sinta and Mateus officiating. :)
They left very excited and thankful, and Sinta was stoked that our sewing room was spreading out into the mountain areas.  Which is part of both our dreams.
They may come back some time for another 3 days. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

random shots

I thought a few random pics of goings on in the sewing room may be fun…..
Here’s Israel hand winding some thread back onto a bobbin after he dropped it!DSCF2869 Serenity is posing with a lovely display stand I whipped up.  I used a cardboard long life milk carton and cut and bent and paper mached and painted. (Pink of course! Bellekria is a womens sewing group).  Its designed to hold our two different brochures in two languages (English and Tetun). 
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This is Novi and Anna working hard on some applique for some more books.DSCF2862 DSCF2864 DSCF2866 DSCF2867
Here is our very attractive bamboo clothes rack!  Isn't it lovely?  We take it to market each week and also use it in the sewing room to display clothing.  DSCF2902 100_0962And here i am cutting out some new patterns for nappy covers….A pretty nice work environment hey? (Yes that is a sand dune and the ocean beyond the fence.  Israel is dripping wet, fresh from a swim…

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sorting and Storing

We received a lovely package from Sylvia in Tweed Head.  She sent us a box load of empty ice-cream and take away containers.   I immediately  brought a large handful to Bellekria.  Sinta pointed out the amazing timing of Gods provision.  That very week was the week we received the 10 boxes of sewing gear.  It took us a while to sort through everything, and just as we were getting large piles of items, here arrived the containers! She was impressed how God had touched the hearts of completely separate people in Australia many months before, and that it all arrived when we needed it.DSCF2977   
So While Sinta and Anna were working on the wedding dress, Nona and serenity helped me sort zips, elastic, ribbons, needles, pins, safety pins and lovely lovely buttons!DSCF2969 (2)

The Chiefs wedding dress

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A few weeks ago, we had an afternoon visit from the village Chief (Sheffie).  He explained that he was required to arrange and purchase a wedding dress for his god-daughter in the mountains.  We asked if he could bring her down for a measure up and to choose the fabric.  We also said we would give him a good deal.  
Anyway, a week later a small convey arrived – The Chief himself, an elderly woman and two younger women.  We trooped up to the sewing room in singe file, and set about establishing which of the young women was the lucky bride to be.   Funnily enough, she was absent!  But luckily, the chief had brought along his wife to measure up as she was roughly the same size.  As in, measure her, then make it “a bit” longer, cause the girl is taller, and she is “a bit” wider around the waist, and “a bit”smaller around the chest.  Hmmm so much for accurate fitting :)  We all had a giggle after they had left suggesting that if the dress didn't end up fitting the girl, maybe the older woman could wear it in her place!
Also, as the young bride to be wasn't around the other women chose the fabric for her.  DSCF2968 (2)Apparently the only request was that it was a pinky colour.  Can you imagine any woman in the western world leaving that wonderful choice to others? Anyway they were quite confident.  Earlier Sinta had helped me sort through our fabric stashes for all the pinky satin finish fabrics.  She had held up a very bright apricot fabric and said this is what they will choose.  I had repressed my revulsion and suggested putting the other options out just in case.  Of course she was right.  Its all relative isn't it?
Thankfully the desigDSCF2964n they wanted was very simple – no sleeves, simple gathered skirt with a fitted bodice.  Sinta kindly brought in her own wedding dress to use as a guide.  A lovely frothy green and yellow extravagance ;)
Sinta was the seamstress for this project – Our first wedding dress.
Here she is pinning and planning…
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Of course she was the closest in size so she got to model it as it developed.
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And here is the almost finished frock.  Seeing as the young bride to be still hasn't shown her face (or her body which is actually more important), we haven't stitched on the straps at the back to allow for at least a pretense of fitting.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Some New Products

So here is the unveiling of some new products….
Bean bags kits!  DSCF2997DSCF2992Complete with a games idea brochure(inspired by last years christmas prezzies) (we finished two sets off at the market and sold one of them ($6)
DSCF3003DSCF2990Bag Bags!  What a great idea (Thanks Beth!)  I want one too…We whipped up six and sold 3 of them last Friday night for $4 each.  They have either a small band of Tais (locally handwoven fabric) or batik print.

Peg bags!!! Another great inspiration from Beth…$4DSCF2987DSCF2988
Now here is where you also may want to purchase some of our products.  We have DSCF2991decided to produce some smaller cloth books about 20cmx200cm.  We will personalise the title (in either English, Tetun, Indonesian or Portuguese:) ). The example below says Barto’s book of shapes. So I’m thinking you can order them and we will deliver them to you before Christmas.  We can do shapes, colours, animals, fruit, clothing or objects( a mix of transport and furniture). What do you think? P&H may have to be around $4 But we can let you know.  email us if your interested
You have seen the balls before, but we keep making new adorable ones.  The women were keen to sew a few in Brazilian colours for a special Brazilian night at the market.DSCF2996
          So any orders welcome…. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

A windfall and some wild winds

Friday market day again!  The sewing room was buzzing in the morning as we all whipped up a few more balls and other new items to sell. (more on that later).  We were also excited that Samuel had driven off to the Rotary shipping container event!.  We were expecting a couple of  boxes from Northern NSW.  A combination of some items i had purchased earlier – lots of PUL and FOE elastic, as well as some sewing supplies collected by my parents, aunt, and friends.  Samuel had been gone a few hours and we were all heading out the door for a quick lunch before doing the big afternoon transporting/market scene.  But here comes the car!  How exciting!  The girls all say “Oh! there are lots of boxes!”   Sure enough  a total of 4 large boxes were emptied out of the car and shuffled into our cramped sewing room :)
Christmas!! Party! Presents! Open them lets have a look!

 We only had a short time, so we tore the tape away and had an amzing time seeing what what inside.  So much wonderful stuff!! laces, balls of wool, fabrics galore, books, sharp scissors, threads, threads and more threads!! And lots more!  What a blessing!
P1050145Thankyou so much to everyone who sent these things over.  The items are so valuable here, and the women know that this will help their sewing group to continue to move forward.  It is such an encouragement!!
God bless you abundantly!!

Friday is a long day, so this blog will be a long blog :)
So we dragged ourselves away from the boxes of goodies, and raced home for lunch.  Sweet Emmy had made lunch for us all which was wonderful as we had all been so busy.  After lunch we cleared the table, popped it on the roof of THE TRUCK! (Yes it is back in P1050154action – somewhat).
Then we drove around to the sewing room and loaded on a treadle machine, boxes and baskets of products  and chairs, etc etc
When we arrived at the market site there was a bit of a blustery wind stirring.  We started setting up the  table and chairs and clothing rack and putting our products on the table.  The first sign that things may get interesting was when our clothing rack fell over.  Hmm.  We tried putting heavy rocks on the base bu it fell again, so then we tied it to the metal frame.  However the canvas was flapping madly, and suddenly a metal bar from the centre of the top fell down and swung near our heads!  Aghhh!  Eeek!
We were getting a little disturbed.
Some market staff came and started wiring the metal frame at some places to make it a bit stronger.  However by this time we were all standing around the edge and slowly dashing in to get our gear away in case anything else should happen.  Our canvas roof was a particularly old damaged one, so the tears that had been taped up now started ripping with a frenzy.  So the market men came and took off the canvas, and we all agreed to move our bodies and our belongings to a safer location – a fixed timber shelter.  There we sat for around 2 hours.  Chatting, snacking, and ooohing and awing as the wind continued to blast the coast.  We finished off the hand sewing of the balls we had been making.
At one point a metal frame which had not yet had its canvas removed started swaying and then suddenly the legs were pulled out of the ground and the whole frame flew up and tumbled over!  There was a lot of screaming as you can imagine.  Thankfully no one was in the vicinity of the thrashing metal bars!  I tell you my heart was racing!
P1050164 Other stalls were securing their belongings and settling down to wait out the wind.    We were all wondering if we should just reload the truck and head home, or just keep praying that the wind would stop.  By around 5:30 the gusts were getting less frequent and we decided to have another go at setting some our heavier products out, as a few customers were starting to arrive. 
We used lots of masking tape to hold coat hangers in place, and rocks to hold cloth books and cushions down. 
And you know what?  It was worth the hassle as we sold over $60 worth of products!!!!P1050162
Lots of balls sold, as well as 1 book, 3 school skirts,  and 2 dresses.
Sinta, Anna, Novi and Nona were so happy.

And as the sun set over the ocean, the full moon was rising behind us over the hill.
We just made it home before midnight, exhausted but happy… and that is the end of the story…..