A brand new hand crank sewing machine
The request from the community was to provide them with sewing machines and a workshop on how to use them. This request was made in the hope to learn how to sew school uniforms and clothing that could be sold. To support this endeavor financially, Zahana bought two heavy hand crank sewing machines. Singer still produces these machines in Vietnam. They are considered the best in the market and are used widely in countries without access to electricity and can work for years, if not decades, with the right care. As is so happens, our founder Dr. Ihanta is not only is a medical doctor, but also an accomplished seamstress. She supported herself though med school with her sewing skills. So, she offered to conduct the workshop herself. With two brand new sewing machines and a pile of fabric in the car she arrived in the village, ready to teach.
Here is her report:
35 ladies and youth attended our Zahana sewing workshop. Most of them had never used a sewing machine before, let alone made their own clothes. We had a four-day sewing workshop that was like a very intensive basic introduction. An apprenticeship of this kind normally takes months. In the morning we focused on how to use a sewing machine and the basics of fabric. We practiced on how to take measurements. First in theory and then they practiced on each other. Then we actually cut the fabric. I had chosen the model of an easy but chic dress that is not too hard to sew for beginners. They spent the afternoon taking turns on the sewing machines and practicing while chatting about what they learned. They even suggested we work instead of having a lunch break. Learning about it is one thing, but it requires practice, practice, practice and perseverance and commitment to become versatile with a sewing machine.
Just 2 ladies in the village already own their own sewing machine, but unfortunately both didn’t currently run anymore. They told us their sewing machines were broken, but for us it became clear that the lack of knowledge or training of basic of sewing machine mechanics was the problem. The machines were fortunately just blocked. As it so happens, our team leader’s sister is actually a professional seamstress and he is, almost by default, very familiar with sewing machines. So, our team fixed their machines on site, so they can be used later. Now, after the workshop they can make dresses and skirts as you can see in the pictures. Making dresses for their daughters that they could wear for the Easter Holidays was something they really wanted to learn and was a great motivator. You can see the very first dress ever made in the photos attached.
We couldn’t provide the training on pants and blouse yet, as we spent most of the time on basic knowledge, or the foundations of sewing, such as how to take measurements, hem, and use and maintain the machines. Everybody who has actually ever used a sewing machine knows all too well that holding the needle in the right way, while you use the hand crank with the other hand, is quite difficult for beginners. Having for the first time in your life the freedom to choose what you or your child is going to wear, because you can make it yourself, is incredibly empowering and brings great pride and happiness in their lives.
PS: Please click on this link and watch our latest video How to build your own improved cookstove in rural Madagascar on our YouTube channel.
Sewing workshop participants
Seeing the sewing machine in action
Displaying the first dress made in the workshop