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Needles in Nepal

The following is a guest post from our knit designer, Kelly McClure of BohoKnits, recounting her recent trip to Nepal to teach our producers about our Fall 2012 knitting patterns. Sounds like Kelly learned a few things of her own! (photos: Kelly McClure)

I traveled to Kathmandu to spend a week teaching knitting and crochet workshops with women who will be mass-producing my hat designs…a surreal experience to say the least. I packed everything I needed to teach knitting in my carry-on just in case my luggage was lost between Calgary, Amsterdam, Delhi and Kathmandu. I brought needles of all sizes, patterns, tiny “plane-friendly” scissors, tape measure, needle gauge, stitch markers, calculator and, of course, projects to work on while traveling.

Garlands

I design for a local company, Ambler hats, and spent the week at the Everest Fashion house and offices right in Kathmandu. Everest Fashion makes all kinds of knitted, crocheted and felted wholesale items for customers all around the world, including Ambler. Their compound is made up of about four buildings, including the house, offices, storage and production space. While the city is busy, polluted and loud, the Everest complex is quiet and spacious, with lots of vegetation and small gardens.

Workbooks

The Everest workforce is over 90% female and many of the women knit hats right from home, allowing them to make extra income for their families while still being able to care for their households and children. They are paid more than fair wages and are paid per piece to increase productivity. My main job for the week was to perfect specific designs with the “group leaders” who then go on to teach the design to 30-75 women. Although there was an obvious language barrier between us, we got by with exaggerated gestures, thumbs up signs and dramatic facial expressions. They are wonderful, genial women and I love being around their colourful, sparkly kurtas and bright smiles.

Learning a pattern at Everest Fashion

During a tour of the complex, I learned a lot about their production techniques. I watched them create pom poms in seconds, wind tangled yarn into balls from their ancient looking wire swifts, and haul massive bags of fibre around as if it was no effort at all. The compound buzzes with creative energy, greetings (Namaste), and there are mounds of brightly coloured fibre and projects everywhere.

Drying fiber

On another day I visited a home called Peace Rehabilitation Center. This is a home for girls and women who have been rescued from human trafficking (see website for more information and stories). Many of the girls come from small villages and are recruited or bought by pimps who then try to smuggle them into India. Fortunately, some of the girls are stopped at the border before they are lost forever. At PRC, the girls are taught all kinds of skills so that they can one day be independent. They learn things like gardening, jewelry making, cooking and, of course, knitting. I was warned before arriving at the home that their skills are very basic and that teaching them something new may be challenging.

at the Peace Rehabilitation Centre

To my surprise, when I arrived, there was about ten girls sitting on mats around a huge pile of yarn, all knitting away like their fingers were on fire. None of them speak English, so teaching without an interpreter would have been fairly difficult anyway, but to my embarrassment, I find that their skills at least match my own. Their technical and finishing skills are outstanding and they easily crank out a perfect fingerless mitt without batting an eye.

I have never felt so quintessentially “Western” as I did while I was in Nepal. The smog, garbage and traffic of the city is a major contrast to our open spaces and clean air in the mountains that I’m used to. While attending a full-moon festival, I was clearly the only Caucasian in a crowd of hundreds, although I was graciously accepted. While visiting with the PRC girls who had been sold by their own families, beaten by pimps and worse, I was painfully aware of my own charmed existence. Despite all these differences, I was mostly struck by the similarities between East and West. Namely, the fact that knitting provides a universal language – knits us together, so to speak. Even if you can’t communicate with words, wool is the same, knitting needles and crochet hooks are the same, and even instructions and techniques are the same. A knitted stitch is the same in Nepal as it is in Canada.

Kelly, labeling Ambler poms

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Bikes Provide An Answer

Nice infographic on what life could be like if more of us pedaled our bikes for daily commuting.

via FastCo Design blog

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Gear Picks From 2010

Our VP of Product Testing in his Ambler prototype

It really is a dream come true to be able to work in the outdoor industry. From the time I was 15 and negotiated my way into a job at a local gear shop in Dallas, TX I’ve been a part of the outdoor industry in some way, shape or form. It’s a great industry filled with some pretty incredible people. We all tend to have a similar fetish, though, and it revolves around the gear we use when we go outside to play.

I do my best to use and abuse gear until there’s nothing left of it. Case in point: my 16 year old Patagonia Super Alpine jacket and 20 year old expedition weight Patagonia Capilene. If it’s good gear, it will last. This year I was fortunate to pick up a few new pieces to add to the collection and I thought I’d pass them on to you. These are listed in no particular order.

Outdoor Research Extravert Gloves These are the best every day gloves for the cold Canmore winter and perfect for backcountry skiing.

Backcountry Access Float 30 Avalanche Airbag Pack I am very happy to have this pack strapped to my back in the backcountry, as is my mother.

Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody This is a super versatile jacket that will get year-round use in the Rockies.

Fits Socks A new brand on the sock-scene, Fits is owned by one of the oldest knitting mills in the US. I’m pretty particular about my socks and these guys are on to something good. Order yourself a pair and see.

Human Gear So it’s a water bottle cap and some travel tubes, what’s the big deal? The simple details of Human Gear’s designs are fantastic. I’m stoked to see such good industrial design in every day items. The capCAP is probably my most used piece of gear this year as I’m drinking through it every day.

Icebreaker Superfine 200 L/S print shirt I’ve got a thing for merino and Icebreaker makes some really nice pieces of clothing. I’ve worn this shirt for a week straight without washing with no complaints from anyone in my family. Good, right?

Osprey Raptor 10 hydration pack I’m a brand loyalist to Osprey. I’m still rocking a 12 year old Osprey pack that has hundreds of miles on it. When they came out with their Hydraulics line of packs they knew what they were doing. It’s the little details that make this pack perfect.

I/O Bio Track Jacket No word of a lie, I wore this jacket every day for 2 months after I purchased it. I’ve lowered the number to probably 5 days a week now, but still haven’t had to wash it but once in 9 months.

Petzl CORE Battery I’ll be honest, I don’t actually have the CORE from Petzl yet. But this thing is awesome and I’m so glad to see it on the market. In my opinion, the head lamp is the most innovative and useful piece of outdoor gear on the market. There are so many applications for the use of a head lamp and it’s certainly one of the products that make me wonder what I did before I had one.

Ambler Vincent This is my favorite toque that we make. It’s 100% merino, warm, looks good and will fit a variety of head sizes. Do you want one? I’ve got a few to give away to the the first people who let me know what their favorite piece of gear from 2010 is and why in the comments. [Updated] Thanks for the great top gear picks of ’10. The Vincent’s have been depleted!

I’m not an advocate for over-consumption or materialism, regardless of what you think after reading this list. I live by the rule that if I’m adding a piece of gear to my life I have to remove a piece from the collection. It keeps me honest and keeps top-notch gear like those above in the great outdoors where they belong.

If you decide to pick up one of the pieces of gear from the list I recommend you check with your local, independent retailer to see if they have it or can bring it in for you. All the best to you in 2011!

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Social Design Project in Nepal

The University of Notre Dame’s Industrial Design department is doing some incredible things in Nepal. They are utilizing the skilled handicraft workers of Nepal to implement student’s designs to create products and jobs that are useful, sustainable and growing in demand.

There are some incredible things happening for the handicraft community in Nepal and we’re excited to see the world catching on to what they have to offer. This short video (really a Notre Dame commercial) touches on a few of the things these industrial design students are doing there.

(via Core77)

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Homemade Is Best




Carl Kleiner’s photography in the new Ikea cookbook ‘Homemade Is Best’ got me thinking about how the choices I make regarding the food that I consume would probably change if I could have a photograph showing me the portions and ingredients that it contains. Even better, how about a photo or infographic of all of the items that go into making the raw ingredients of my meals. That would probably make me think twice about that street corner burrito.

This un-finished product photography would work well for consumer goods as well. I’d like to see some products broken down into their elements similar to what Kleiner has done with the cookbook photography. We are so accustomed to seeing the finished product that we forget about what, exactly, is underneath the surface.

What are the un-finished product photos that you’d like to see?

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