[From the Archives] A Day at Amani: Stitching & Jerita

“Over the course of the next few months, we will be sharing stories from Amani’s history on the blog. We’ll be calling the series, “From the Archives.” Different materials will show up, including posts about daily life at Amani, profiles and interviews with Amani women from years ago, and some other stories from moments in our history. Those of you who have been following us for years may have already seen some of what we will be sharing. But we hope that those of you who have only recently learned about our work will enjoying getting a window into Amani’s history.”

Eager and full of optimism, Jerita always brings her contagious smile with her to work at Amani. Since coming to the Nairobi center two years ago Jerita has learned many products, but most recently, she has learned to make the “Going on Safari” baby book. The production process is an incredible example of the importance of community involvement at Amani.

Part of the philosophy of Amani is women helping other women. Training a woman how to sew, for example, is not just for the purpose of training her to make products but also so that she can train someone else.

The Process: From Start to Finish

It begins with training. Simprosa, one of the experienced seamstresses at Amani, trains Jerita on how to sew the “Going on Safari” baby book. After training, Jerita is given her production assignment from Sarah who carefully records it in her work log book. Sarah then distributes the fabric for the work order. Jerita is now ready to receive the pattern for the baby book from Zewditu. Zewditu is in her second year of training at Amani. Though Zewditu is a trainee she also fills an officer position. At Amani it’s important that women grow not only in technical skills but also in leadership ability as part of the holistic training program.

Jerita now traces and cuts out all of the animals and other shapes for the entire order, saving and returning the extra pieces back to Elizabeth. Elizabeth’s responsibility is to keep scraps organized and stored. At Amani nothing is wasted; with a little creativity everything can be put to use. A Scrap Line of products was even created at Amani in order to prevent the extra pieces of cloth from filling up the limited precious space we had to work in.

Once Jerita has completed her cutting she is now ready to start stitching. She prefers using the treadle machine. Most women prefer the treadle machine because they never know when the electricity will go off. But for this product Jerita chooses the electric machine because the animal baby book requires more specialized stitching. She outlines each animal in the book with the zigzag stitch and then sews the beautiful local kitenge fabric borders onto each padded page. Once all of the pages are finished and the embellishments are added Jerita binds them with one final piece of kitenge. This step in the process is difficult since it means stitching a binding onto four thickly padded cloth pages. She looks to other more-experienced stitchers to ensure a perfect job.

Veronica, the quality controller who also went through Amani as a trainee herself, carefully inspects the baby books to ensure that they will be a true reflection of the love and care that went into making the product. Theresa, who is responsible for recording the work of all 50 women and has a keen understanding of the work division of the 300 different products at Amani, records the work in the payment log. Sarah then signs off on the completed assignment in her work order log and assign new work to Jerita so that she is ensured of a continuous income.

Jerita has a sense of accomplishment when her work is finally completed. She knows she couldn’t have completed her product alone. It took a caring community like Amani to make it all possible. Her dream is to improve her skills to the point that she can also become a trainer and make others feel as good as she does.

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