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A Reflection by Brooke

(Katha is the Bengali word for a hand quilting saris)

In India, people are accustomed to sitting on the floor to cut vegetables, to play a few rounds of cards, to sell goods in a shop or in the market… when we started Sari Bari the ladies also preferred to work on the floor rather than at tables. The ladies lay out their blankets, scarves, and bags weighing them in place with multiple bricks. Preparing their thread and threading their needle, they lean over and begin a new row of stitching. As the stitch moves along the sari the ladies scoot along, sometimes in the familiar sit-squat pose of India, all the time leaning over to ensure a straight steady stitch.

I’ve started learning how to stitch. The Sari Bari staff made a 15 x 15 inch piece of fabric for me to learn on, and gave me the necessary tools to create a small katha piece. My lines were not straight. I started over. My stitching was uneven; I pulled the thread out several inches and re-threaded my needle for a second try. The stitching continued to be uneven. Rows continued to be crooked. I saw small waves forming in my stitching when I thought I was making a straight line. I told myself if I was persistent, I would improve. I sat there for a few hours stitching on my small katha. When I stood up to take tea, my back filled with pain. I looked down to observe my work: it looked awful.

Through this frustrating exercise, I understand in a new way what it might be like for women when they first come to work at Sari Bari. Learning a new skill of stitching can be frustrating and discouraging. It takes time, persistence, and patience. All of our friends at Sari Bari have had to faithfully nurture the skill that they now possess in order to produce beautiful products. It is through their hard work and desire for freedom that Sari Bari exists as it does today.