For the past month and a half or so Katie and I have been helping with Fount of Mercy’s latest project –handmade batik scarves to be sold in the good ol’ US of A.
The Scarf Project is our first attempt at selling goods made by Ugandans in the US market, and it is certainly a learning experience to say the least. What makes this undertaking possible is that the scarves are actually being sold by an organization called The GO Exchange.
What’s The GO Exchange? I’ll probably get this wrong, but here it goes. The website explains the organization as ‘a living and active global marketplace that changes lives; ALL PROFITS go to help care for orphaned and abandoned children’ (https://thegoexchange.org/). So basically it’s an online marketplace selling goods made by people in other countries, with the profits going directly to helping orphaned children. We sell the scarves to GO then they resell them on their website as well as at home shows – so if, come September, you feel like buying a scarf, you can! Just make sure you type ‘Fount of Mercy’ in the Affiliation box on the billing page so we will receive an extra 15% on anything you buy from the website! . . . and you probably want to really try to make sure you do that, seeing as we’re not making any money off of this, but simply breaking even – hopefully. . .
So what exactly does it take to create a one-of-a-kind, beautiful, hand batik scarf? Allow me to try to explain.
First you wash the fabric to preshrink the scarves. Next you cut to size and batik, as you can see Esther measuring a piece out below.
The batiking is accomplished by painting melted paraffin wax onto the fabric. Making batik look good is actually way harder than it looks! Katie and I tried it for a couple of days and our scarves didn’t look nearly as good or get completed as fast as those of the seasoned Scarf Gang. That’s just a name I’ve taken to calling the employees at the scarf workshop (though they don't know it).
Once the wax has been applied it’s time to dye the fabric! Depending on the color, the scarves will stay in the dye bath for varying amounts of time. Below you can see Janet stirring the bath to insure an even dying of the scarf as well as what the bath looks like just after adding the dye.
After the dying is finished the scarves are hung on the line to dry and then boiled after that to remove the wax. Below, another of our interns, Yevette, takes the boiled scarf out of the pot.
A final rinse to get the wax pieces off follows the boil and then another round on the line to dry.
Next, the scarves are ironed between sheets of newspaper to get rid of any remaining wax off of the scarves. Hemming up all four sides comes next and then a final once over with the iron.
At home Katie and I apply iron-on transfer tags, then fold and package the scarves. And voila, a handmade batik scarf is complete!