Yesterday was the first day of class for the women. Instead of the 12 women I was expecting to come, 22 were invited and 19 arrived – so I didn’t have enough folders for everyone! I gave each of them a propelling pencil to write with, and our translator, Zafy, had to explain to some of them how to get the lead down to write with it!
I was humbled to discover that three of them had travelled from Fort Dauphin by taxi brousse (one of those buses laden with people squashed in and bags sky high) for FOUR days to get here. They are staying for both weeks.
Everyone listened very attentively to the critique of the work that had been sent to the States to sell, and seemed to understand the principles I was explaining to them:
- that their embroidery is wonderful and their products beautiful, but that they could be made more appealing to American eyes
- we’d like bigger sized bags
- they needed to use fabric that was not going to get dirty as quickly as the white they had been using
- that tablecloths (unless commissioned) are not a good idea because everyone has a different sized - table (I didn’t mention that not many of us like to launder them nowadays)
… and so on.
Then we started sewing – about 1/3 embroider already, but I suspect some had never held a needle and thread before. Zafy (despite declaring it women’s work – and laughing when I called him sexist) got the hang of everything very quickly, and supervised parts of the work. I was amazed that after he had seen me explain ladder herringbone stitch to one woman, and demonstrate 2 stitches, he was then able to tell her exactly what she was doing wrong and how to work the stitch correctly!
I can’t get one of the women out of my mind. She can’t read or write, and spent about an hour threading the needle, tying a knot, putting the needle through the felt, cutting the knot off, tying a knot, putting the needle through the felt, cutting the knot off, tying a knot, putting the needle through the felt, cutting the knot off… After about an hour she managed to make a stitch, and finally a row of running stitch. I tried to look at her work to help her, but she bowed over it and cowered away from me. I stroked her back gently each time I stood by her, and that seemed to help. Later Patsy told me she can’t read or write, and may have been beaten by a teacher. She left early – not feeling well, I guess she was too stressed. I hope and pray she comes back today.
Both the morning Bible Study and the Afternoon silent prayer session seemed to be well received.