Friday, August 26, 2011

Sunset market

Last year the department of tourism linked up with the organisers of Darwin’s sunset market, to commence a Timor version.  It started in the dry season, every week, and had stalls of local products, food stalls and entertainment.
The Sunset Fair was designed for tourists and foreigners living here.  It is also held at the “white skin” white sand beach called Christo Rei.  This is on the far side of Dili away from us, and combined with the fact that we didn’t have much spare cash or time we never attended.  I had asked a friend about the possibility of bellekria selling some things there, but she made a few inquiries and it seemed that the sellers needed to be a registered business or NGO, plus a stall space was $50 so we shelved the idea. 
This year as we have been expanding both with staff and product range, I have been seriously re-considering trying to get a stall at the sunset market.  So Sinta rang the organiser and was invited around immediately to sign up! We sent them along with $70 in case the price had increased.  They returned very excited as the organiser was a lovely lady who was  very encouraging about their sewing group.  The $50 fee is a one off cost which lasts the entire market season (till December).  They had to sign a contract and now they wait for their application to be approved and receive some i.d cards.  So next Friday may be our first market stall!  Of course i am racking my brains for other simple products to sell there.   I have found a sweet pattern for a child's fabric ball, as well as hoping to make lots of the cotton dresses, and more cloth books.  Word has been getting around about our books, so I think we may sell a few.

Cute smocked dresses!

Sinta loves whipping up small experimental designs.  One afternoon i noticed one of our neighbours small girls wearing a sweet outfit made from leftover bag fabric.  I was very impressed.  I mentioned it to Sinta, and she shyly explained how she had used up some fabric remnants to make a dress as a gift for this little girl.  I encouraged her.  After sourcing this new batik fabric, i began to think – hmm 100% cotton fabric (which foreigners look for plus the fact that foreigners love to purchase locally made products,  well– lets make cute girls dresses!!  So they came up with a simple smocked top/dress with straps tied on the shoulders.  They use the leftover pieces from the bags.DSCF2878
I think they are very cute.  The girls bought 1 roll of elastic thread for 50c which they wind onto the bobbin.  They made 6 dresses with the 1 roll.  I was in the sewing room as they finished the first 2 and hung them on the wall.  Soon after a neighbour wandered in and eyed them off.  She returned later to purchase both of them less than 30mins after they were finished!  Talk about products walking off the shelf :)  I bought them a couple of bulk rolls of elastic yesterday and we may begin making more children's clothing.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Op Shopping in a 3rd world country

A few weeks ago our neighbours needed to chop down 2 coconut trees – which is kind of ok as there are about 40 of them all around our house and we hear a coconut drop nearly every day, so a few less to worry about is a good thing.  (Although of course its a little sad to chop down a lovely fruiting tree).  Anyway, where was I….Ah yes,, so the the chainsaw man arrived and cranked up the RRRREEEEEEEEEEEEEE machine.  Right next to our house which doesn't have glass in many windows, so there is no way to dampen the sound.   A few hours later, as they were still RRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEing, I realised that they were also slicing the tree up into nice beams etc. and that they hadn't even started on the second tree.   Well no school today, and maybe we should go for a long walk.??  So Serenity and I soon agreed that a nice outing would to be to hike up to the closest market (only a handful of stalls) and “go opshopping” for the first time since March.  Off we went and enjoyed buying a few outfits, esp a wedding outfit for Serenity to wear to the upcoming wedding at our place.  It was a long walk, especially the walk home and we didn’t arrive home till around 4:00.  On the way home we lamented the fact that our local village didn’t have a “sack of clothes” shop we could visit.  We tossed the idea around about purchasing one ourselves……
Second hand clothes arrive in large cloth sacks about 1m wide and 1 m high.  In my browsing history it seems that most of these seem to come from China.  There is a wide variety in each sack from silk blouses to cotton tshirts and plenty of jeans thrown in. Anyone who knows me will know that its a special treat to go rummaging through second hand clothes.  I don't get to do it very often here though – maybe once every 3-6 months.  Prices vary from 50c-$4.  About the same, or a bit cheaper than Aussie Op shops.
Anyway, can you guess my thought processes???  Here we are in Bellekria, looking for cheap fabrics for our bags etc, and turning old clothing into new attractive dresses. 
On returning home I popped in to the sewing room to chat with Sinta, Novi and Anna.  I mentioned the idea of buying a sack.  They all perked up! OOH what a lovely idea!  We could buy it, open it up and sell the best stuff (after taking out our favourites of course), then, we could offer to alter the clothes to fit better $$. AND any large clothing or weird stuff we can chop up and turn into other things!  What a fantastic idea.


That’s a modern word for chopping up some article of clothing and making it into something new.
When some of our visitors arrived they brought some treasures…. Among other lovely things, they brought over some bright colourful dresses a number of sizes bigger than the Timorese women.   Of course we immediately saw possibilities.
Sinta and Novi held one up to their chest and pulled a bit here and tugged a bit there and a cute little party dress began to take form.
A few hours later they had produced a young woman's party dress, as well as a child's version complete with bow!
Delightful.  They were quite cocky about the fact that the fabric was free, yet they could sell the dress for about $10.!!  That's a good profit margin hey?  A few women are already eyeing it off and it seems like it may sell soon.
 DSCF2998DSCF3006 DSCF3004 DSCF3005

Monday, August 22, 2011

Visiting the Ermera Library

I had the pleasure of visiting the library at Gleno. We were impressed with the place before we even entered the front door!  And then the kids room was just stunning!  Our gorgeous cushions made the room so cheerful!
 DSCF2867DSCF2853DSCF2865DSCF2849And a whole stack of our cloth books were on the shelves just waiting to be picked up by small hands.DSCF2852
We had a good look at the whole place and highly recommend a visit if your in the area.  You can see more info about what they do on  The Ermera Library's website
This is one of their photos showing a librarian using one of our cloth books.  They visit the hospital each week and have a short program with new mums about the benefits of reading to their children.  Its a great program and we are proud to be connected with them!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Child labour!

This past week was the start of school holidays.  Some young girls had been asking if they could start training during this time, so on Monday afternoon when i arrived in the sewing room, i discovered three, very young, (barely teenagers) girls taking turns pumping away on the treadles.  One is Emily, a very sweet girl who Serenity loves hanging out with.  She was a natural, and had the rhythm immediately! much to Sintas surprise (and pride – she is her niece i think!) DSCF2856
Sinta started them without the machine threaded, so that they could get used to making the treadle pump the foot in the forward direction.  Then a few afternoons later they were sewing along pen lines.  Sinta arranged it so that only 2 came at one time, as we only have 2 treadles.  I am hoping to find some tables that we can install the aussie singers to, but so far haven't been able to find any.  What with Anna and Novi on the 2 electric machines, the two girls learning on the treadles, and Sinta overseeing, teaching and using the overlocker, it is very full and busy!DSCF2870     
I showed some surprise at the young age of the girls and she explained that their mothers wanted to learn as well, but it was too hard for them to find time, and as their children complete schooling  with no exposure to any practical skills etc, the mums decided to take matters into their own hands and send them along to us.  So far we haven't charged them for this, and I am hoping to be able to use their new skills to assist with simple products in the future.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Last year I tried to suggest to Sinta the concept of doing some patchwork with all the leftover scraps of fabric we collect.  I even made up a few small samples to show her the concept.  But it didn't jell for her.  Then a few weeks ago, Serenity mentioned how she has seen a number of patchwork bags in the city centre.   So I finally had a moment chatting with Sinta, and I mentioned what Serenity had said.  Sinta immediately brightened up and told me a little story…
A week or two earlier, on a return trip from the sewing shop, Novi and Sinta were offered to share a taxi with a foreign lady.  The lady was particularly large well built, so that Novi had to half sit on Sinta’s lap to fit in, but as it turned out, Sinta was so close and snugly that she got a good look at this foreign ladies bag – it happened to be a bright patchwork bag, joined simply by overlapping the edges and using a zig-zag stitch.  So Sinta was very keen to try it as she thought it was a very attractive bag…. And so the next afternoon she proudly visited me at home after closing to show me this beautiful bag!

Monday, August 8, 2011

More Marketing

I mentioned earlier that we have employed Mateus who, among other tasks, will assist Sinta and Novi in commencing a marketing push.
A few days ago, he arrived (un-announced and dressed to impress), so i had to run over to the sewing room and let Sinta and Novi know.  They in turn disappeared to “freshen up” a bit.  They returned very nervous, but looking sensational! Part of Mateus role is supporting them and coaching them a bit, as well as driving, and if needed translating into English.  The three of them drove away,and I was jumping with excitement! 
I had helped them prepare a crate with some samples to give away, other samples to show, and a bunch of brochures and some brand new business cards!!
  business card business card back
They returned quite happy, having visited three organisations.  ALOLA, HIAM Health, and a women's group NGO.  Everyone they spoke to had been positive, but all needed to speak with their directors.  ALOLA have their own sewing groups which make simple cloths to use as pads, however Sinta and Novi explained how “ours” are better, because they clip on to the underpants, and have a waterproof layer.  ALOLA has a large shopfront at the front of their building.  They noticed the cloth books on the back of our business card, and expressed interest in possibly purchasing some to sell through their shop.
On a personal note, upon arriving at HIAM Health (a malnutrition Rehabilitation Centre), Sinta was quite surprised and excited to see the little boy who she had earlier adopted but who had been taken back by the birth family about 2-3 months ago.  She spoke of it being Gods work that she went there on that day, as he was leaving a few hours later to go back to the mountains with his birth family. Thanks to God for small blessings!

Blue glorious blue….


Next time we were out around town, we stopped in at a few “general store” type Indonesian-ware shops.  And guess what we found! Some rolls of the correct blue colour for $1/m! YAY Now we can make more affordable school shirts…. It was also our first ever whole roll purchases.  That was plural because we bought 2 rolls of the blue – just in case it sells out there too, and we bought a roll of black to use for the linings in our shoulder bags.

It felt pretty exciting lugging the rolls into the sewing room!

We were also looking for some alternative fabric for our shoulder bags.  The two fabric shops have been increasing the price in 50c increments from $3.50/m last year to $5/m/ now!  That really means we make a loss on the bags.  So after one of our visitors bought a batik printed sarong for $5, i immediately thought hey that's about 2m long so its only $2.50/m!  After a discussion with Sinta she explained they sell in packs of 5 for around $12-$16.  If you do the maths its less its about $1.50/m!  A bargain!  And its pure cotton in lovely prints.

SO while out and about we hunted out a pack to try.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Our third sewer employed officially


Sweet Anna is quiet and friendly.  She works really steadily and is gradually picking up new skills and learning all the terms… We all had a laugh today when she started looking for “that thing” She joked that because she couldn't remember its name she would have to keep looking until she found it herself!  We all teased her, and then had a good laugh  a few minutes later when she triumphantly held up a quick-unpick! 

This month she is still training so she is on a part wage, which as the weeks go by, we will increase to a standard wage.

Novi is still coming nearly every day, and the three of them enjoy each others company (most of the time) ; )  Apparently it turns out that the three of them share the same Godmother, so they are sort of like sisters.

As soon as Anna mastered the treadle machine she began to sew simple seams, and also helps out with packaging and applying the press studs.  They have been working on producing about 150 pads, plus 12 shirts, and are now finishing about 10 skirts!  They have been very busy this week!  They sit in production line each on a task.  Its great to see!