Empowering Women Through Design in Rural Peru

by Awamaki
Jul 21, 2011

Sewing Co-Operative Up and Running!

sewing co-op group
sewing co-op group

This Spring, Awamaki Lab officially opened the doors of its sewing co-operative space and began its capacitationes program.  With much elbow grease and the discovery of our staff’s latent construction skills, we transformed an old office into a fully functioning production site for three novice seamstresses.  Thanks to your generous donations, we were able to purchase four sturdy second-generation industrial sewing machines, a serger, a fabric-cutting table, miscellaneous notions, trims and fabric, and pay for a local sewing professor and daycare services.

Our costueras, Justa Mercado Torres, Florentina Mercado Santacruz and Estela Mamani Cayllahua delved headlong into an intensive two-month sewing course, advancing rapidly in quiet determination, and generating a level of output that belies their small group numbers.  As mothers, wives, farmers, and craft enthusiasts, these women applied their impressive multi-tasking skills to a challenging sewing curriculum, and our humble co-operative quickly gained momentum.  Their progress was mentored by two wonderful sewing professors: Nayantara Banjeree, a professional seamstress from NYC known as the Williamsburg Seamster, and PaulaVera Huillca, a local seamstress and small business owner. 

The objective of Lab is to harness the talents of women in the district of Ollantaytambo by creating jobs that build confidence and extend beyond scope of the local tourism market.  In three short months, Nayantara and Paula advanced this mission by tailoring a sewing curriculum to the specific needs of our co-op members, teaching them accuracy, control of machine speed, hand sewing, pattern cutting, and finally, full garment production.  Just this week, Justa, Florentina and Estela triumphantly finished production on their first order of Season 1 skirts!

Select styles from the Season 1 Nieli Vallin collection will soon be available for sale on our online store, and we’ll be sure to keep you posted on all future sewing and design breakthroughs.  We share more anecdotes and details of our training program on our blog: http://www.awamaki.org/awamakilab.  

Industrial Singer Machine
Industrial Singer Machine
Mastering the serger
Mastering the serger
Cutting basic patterns
Cutting basic patterns
Explaining the function of darts
Explaining the function of darts
Textile transformed into skirt
Textile transformed into skirt
Skirt lining
Skirt lining
Estela cutting the skirt sample
Estela cutting the skirt sample
Our skirt samples! Final step before production.
Our skirt samples! Final step before production.



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Organization Information


Location: Ollantaytambo, Cusco - Peru
Website: http:/​/​www.awamaki.org/​
Project Leader:
Mary Kennedy Leavens
Ollantaytambo, Cusco Peru
$23,260 raised of $28,000 goal
419 donations
$4,740 to go
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