Meet the indigenous Ecuadorian women who hand-sew our cozy yet campy vintage-inspired knit sweaters
Posted on July 15 2015
Ten years ago, I lost my job while five months pregnant.
At the same time, I found myself desperately craving a more meaningful life. Deep down I knew I wanted my own socially responsible business selling products I loved.
The difficult double-whammy of unemployment and pregnancy seemed to be providing me with a unique opportunity to dive in.
So I took a deep breath and jumped.
Why I flew 3750 miles south to rural Ecuador
Just before I launched Camp Kitschy Knits in 2004, I flew from my home in New Jersey to the highlands of rural Ecuador, about 45 minutes from the bustling city of Cuenca.
There, in the Andes Mountains just outside the small city of Gualaceo, I met a small group of indigenous Quechua women who were largely jobless, despite their supreme knitting skills.
It’s not an affluent area and life can be tough without the security of a regular income.
Here, it seemed, was my chance to create a socially responsible business that really could make a difference in the lives of Ecuadorian women and their families.
When I launched my knitting cooperative soon after, these women became the brains and skill behind my children’s knitwear line, my kitschy knit sweaters and my traditional knitted Christmas stockings.
Why 120 indigenous Quechua women want to work with me
More than 120 indigenous Quechua women now work for my knitting cooperative. I spend most of my mornings chatting to them via Skype – which is also an excellent opportunity to continue developing the halting Spanish I picked up as a kid!
These women are hardworking, honest and astonishingly skilled knitters. But major clothing companies often overlook Ecuador’s talent and instead head to next-door Peru.
I love that I can offer each woman a stable job. They love that they can knit while walking around town, riding the bus or caring for their children.
It’s a convenient job that allows them to carry on their highly family-orientated lives, yet still earn an all-important income.
The beautiful truth I’ve learned working with indigenous Ecuadorians
As a mom-of-three myself, I love that my knitters use this job opportunity to support their families and further their children’s education – because that’s exactly what I’m doing, too.
That’s the beautiful thing I’ve learned producing outrageously kitsch sweaters over the past decade.
Whether you’re an indigenous woman living in the Ecuadorian mountains or a New Jersey housewife, it’s clear we all want the same thing – to support our children and give them a better life.
That’s the string that binds all of us together.
Until next time,