Here at Shared Trade, we value our friendships as much as anyone. Today we want to share the story of a friendship that began years ago that will now strengthen with Shared Trade and the story of an organization birthed out of Thistle Farms. The first organization we want to share with you in this post is The Studios of Thistle Farms.
The Studios of Thistle Farms is an initiative of Thistle Farms based in Nashville, TN and is comprised of the Paper Studio and the Sewing Studio. The Studios of Thistle Farms is committed to empowering women who have experienced addiction, sex trafficking, and life on the streets. One of the Studios' inspiring women is Penny.
Penny is a graduate of Magdalene House, a two-year residential program that is partnered with Thistle Farms. Before she found Magdalene, Penny was trying to survive on the streets and ended up in jail. She spent five months at Magdalene before joining the Thistle Farms community, where she started out working in the packing and shipping departments before becoming manager of the Paper Studio. “At Thistle Farms, I’ve learned that I’m always going to be a sister for life, and they love me no matter what,” she said. From card sets and journals to coasters and tote bags, each of the Studios of Thistle Farms’ products is made with love. In the Paper Studio, thistle paper is handmade from recycled paper, t-shirts, and thistles that are harvested by "Thistle Farmers" from all over the country ( click here to learn more about harvesting thistles). The paper making process usually takes a full day. First, the shredded recycled paper and t-shirts, along with other materials, is made into a pulp. The pulp is then formed into sheets of paper which are dried in a press. Finally, the handmade paper is used for silk screen greeting cards, hand sewn journals, and other beautiful creations. Each of Studio’s products is unique and will be sure to make a perfect gift.
The Sewing Studio has five sewing machines and a large work table where fabric is cut to patterns and new designs are created. On any given day, the seamstresses are working on batik tote bags or hot pads, or are sewing custom labels on Thistle Farms t-shirts or other items. In addition, the Sewing Studio has made prototypes of packaging used in Thistle Farms' kits (such as the recently announced Tea Kit) which have been passed on to other Shared Trade partners for higher volume production.
The second organization is Sibimbe, a sewing cooperative located in San Eduardo, Ecuador. The main employers in the Los Rios region of Ecuador are owners of banana plantations, and the jobs available involve back-breaking work for low pay. Three years ago, Reverend Becca Stevens and a few other people from St Augustine’s Episcopal Chapel, in Nashville, TN, wanted to provide an opportunity for a small group of women in San Eduardo to create a sustainable business. Becca started with a group of three women, who said they would like to sew. Over the next year, Becca was able to obtain three sewing machines and supplies, which were then taken to this group of women to create the sewing cooperative Sibimbe, named after the river where the founding seamstresses learned to swim.
Sibimbe launched its business by creating healing oil pouches for Thistle Farms. The beautiful, hand-sewn pouches made by women at Sibimbe hold five essential healing oils.
This friendship is important for both Sibimbe and Thistle Farms because they both ultimately have the same goal.
“The purpose of this cooperative is to provide decent work and to improve the quality of life for women,” said the Reverend Gina Angulo, priest at Escuela Anne Stevens. “It is our hope that in the future there will be many more women that can be a part of Sibimbe.”
Be sure to check out The Studios of Thistle Farms' and Sibimbe’s products once they are available at the Shared Trade e-commerce site this October. Perhaps you might want to send a friend of your own some essential healing oils or a friendly, handmade note. Through our relationships with our partners, Shared Trade wants to promote love and friendship across the globe and close to home.