Technique: Hand-Knit Animals
THE TECHNIQUE : HAND-KNIT ANIMALS
Each Manuela Ramos stuffed animal is hand-knit by an artisan in the Puno region of Peru, an area known for its rich cultural history and high-quality textiles. Despite being an international tourist destination, Puno remains one of the poorest regions of Peru. Manuela Ramos began its Artisan Women’s House in an effort to improve artisans’ quality of life. In addition to knitting, the female artisans also care for their families, tend livestock, and work in agriculture.
The women knit each stuffed animal by hand using soft alpaca wool. Indigenous to Peru, luxurious alpaca wool is highly prized for its warmth, strength, and lightweight texture. Alpacas have been bred in the Andean highlands for thousands of years, and form a crucial component of the Peruvian economy and culture.
Artisans at Kenana Knitters in Kenya create beautiful hand-knit finger and hand puppets found at The Little Market. The presence of knitting techniques in Africa dates back to the late 1800s, when early missionaries working in the region introduced it to local communities. Since then, knitting has been passed down across generations in small pockets around Kenya, often by mothers teaching their daughters.
To hand-knit these puppets, Kenana Knitters uses organic cotton and natural fibers. The cotton is sourced from neighboring Tanzania; the artisans ply and twist the cotton before dyeing it with AZO-free dyes. It takes them approximately 30 minutes to create one puppet. These puppets can be easily washed and are very durable.
In Peru, artisans at Naguska use knitting and weaving techniques to make dolls and stuffed animals. To start the process of making a new doll or stuffed animal, the master weaver who is in charge of prototype development creates the first prototype. Our product development team at The Little Market provides feedback on the sample, and then edits are made as needed. Once the samples are approved, the master weaver shares the pattern with other artisans working with Naguska. The parts are sewn by hand and/or with a sewing machine using 100 percent Peruvian cotton thread, and the handmade dolls and stuffed animals are then stuffed with a synthetic polyester fiberfill.
All of these materials are sourced locally in Peru. The group of female artisans moved to the outskirts of Lima after previously living in the mountain range of Peru; due to the cold climate in the mountain range, the female artisans typically learn to weave when they’re younger so that they can create their own clothing. While working with Naguska, they are able to work from home, which allows them to also take care of their children and household responsibilities. Each purchase of their beautiful fair trade goods helps to empower the women and their households.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ARTISAN
Located in the agricultural community of Njoro in Kenya, Kenana Knitters works with 580 artisans, the majority of whom are women. The female artisans have had few income earning opportunities because of limited educational backgrounds and their family responsibilities. By working with Kenana Knitters, which is a profit-share group, they can earn a sustainable income, create long-term economic plans, and take care of their families with a flexible work schedule. Kenana Knitters provides them with access to regular health check-ups, family planning, HIV treatment and counseling, and educational opportunities including daily newspapers. What began as a grassroots organization founded by a local Kenyan in 1998 is now an organization positively impacting and educating hundreds of artisans who can be confident in their work and proud of what they create together. We are excited to work with these talented artisans on an exclusive collection of hand and finger puppets at The Little Market.
Naguska was founded in 1997 as an export company of Peruvian handicrafts, a craft that, since pre-Columbian times, has been characterized by its richness, variety and unique beauty. Even today, the materials and techniques that its artisans have inherited from generation to generation can be appreciated in every piece. Naguska seeks to create job opportunities for artisans in Peru, increasingly for groups of women knitters from the rural area in highlands of Puno. Naguska provides training and technical support in the implementation on workshops so they can make their work as well as increase the quality of products and, therefore, of their life.
The Artisan Women’s House, apart of Movimiento Manuela Ramos, began in 1993 with the goal of improving Peruvian artisans’ quality of life and to promote the consumption and value of these artisans’ work. Manuela Ramos offers a line of accessories, such as hats and mittens that are 100% alpaca, along with dolls made in fine natural fibers. All of their products are hand knit by women in Puno, an Andean region in the south of Peru known for the quality of its textiles. The women here, aside from knitting, also tend livestock, work in agriculture, and care for their families.