Date: Mon, 28 Jul 1997
I'm delighted to know there are some good bobbin winders available for Nicaragua. Golly. Are these for sale and how much? I'd like to have them sent to me, so I can send them down with my explanations. I'd like one for Danelia and one for the co-op if possible. And I'm still trying for heavier hand-shuttles for both, like the last one you sent down.
I was interested to read the front of the Pattern Book so many "hints for handweavers", like a shuttle needs to be heavy enough to slide all across the warp, a warp needs to be closer sett than the weft, and so many things I'd been trying to tell the weavers. It had probably been 30 years since I'd read that. The weavers love the book, Lolli, and send their thanks to you.
Do you have a Newark Dressmaker catalog? I want to get some webbing for straps for the bolsos. I'd like to find something cheaper than 69 cents a yard, which is what I paid for the 10 yards I took down with me. It takes a minimum of 1 & 1/3 yards to a bolso. They insisted they needed to be long enough to fit over the arm at the shoulder, the way they carry everything, and told me I should carry things, too.
When we set up the warp I tried to build in a safety pattern, and it's a good thing I did. I hate to tell you this after all the work you did, but the screens were not successful. They are too delicate in their patterns, all of the screens. The kind of cloth they printed on, plus their degree of expertise, makes it difficult for them to get a good print. If they leave a holiday and have to make a third pull across, they lose all the definition they had in the pattern in the first two pulls.
I wish I could have gone to Mendocino when I was in California but I was just flat pooped. Particularly to deliver a negative report. The screen that just says Nicaragua has holidays in it. At first I thought it was bad pulls, but I finally checked the screen. I asked for a paint brush of some kind, but of course they didn't have one, so I scrabbled to find a stick and I used that to fill in the blank areas. Then they were okay. I hope the women learned how to do that without making it blobby.
Well, there's more to the story. Remember Lee saying the women were reluctant to screen print something after having spent all that time and material to make something, and then to lose it with a bad print was hard. There were some printed place mats they tried to do after I left that were done on stretched-on-one-side mats, and then the fabric relaxed and the print was distorted badly. I tried to explain that to them, the fabric needed to relax so don't print on fabric you've just taken off the loom. And try to avoid putting those bobbins in on the sides of the woven cloth as you weave.
After we widened the place mat warp a little, Danelia wove and wove for the printing. When it came off the loom it was looser and longer on one side than it was on the other and I tried hard to shrink it before printing. I tried to find out why. Danelia said it was the loom, so I got a tape measure and checked. The beater was set crooked, 1 1/2 inches further back on one side. I had Cecilio correct it right away, but wouldn't you think if she'd known that that she'd have done something about it before doing all that weaving?
When they put the bolso warp on, I had them do it full width with a pattern threaded in, just in case. Good thing. Some of the prints were okay, but the sewing up was awful, really beyond their talents. I sewed some for them, experimenting. I decided they should weave them the long way so they can simplify the sewing, needing only to sew up the sides and turn down the upper hem with the handles in. Then they did manage okay. But they wanted bigger bolsos than I did, and they may be right. Time will tell. I have been having them weave a strip of the pattern in a different color, everything else being plain weave. It makes a pretty tote, I think. Then we printed just the NICARAGUA on it. I think that is what's important. I really think the fancy border, which works out to be on just one side, is really nice. We also made up some of the place mats into totes, since we couldn't get a good printed set, and who wants a whole set of place mats that say Nicaragua, anyway. It's better for a single thing.
I insisted they be the ones to set the prices for these bolsos, and they did. They decided on $12 for the bigger ones, $10 for the smaller ones made from place mats. We'll see if they sell. If they have troubles with the printing, they can always make up just the woven design without any printing and they'll be lovely.
Speaking of prices, Ana got to where she was challenging me on prices, saying I wasn't setting them high enough. I was happy about that, since she's the one who does all the selling. Then I found out she was undercutting prices all the time anyway. She sold a colcha matrimonial ((80" wide) for $25. No one ever seemed to check on her. I was entering things in the inventory, and when I asked how much she sold that matrimonial for they didn't know, and when they found out she had sold it for $25 when it was supposed to be $40, they were mad. Any time someone said the price was too high she dropped it down low. But she never discussed it with the others. When she went to a fair in Managua my last week, and all the stuff had the price tags on them, she couldn't drop the prices. She had taken the fancy colchas, she said, to show them what we produced, but it was solely a fair for Nicaraguans. She came back and said Nicaraguans said the prices were too high. I said fine, just sell them the plain weave colchas, sell the fancy ones to Americans and other foreigners. They have to have the American sales; they don't sell enough to Nicaraguans. The others backed me. I think when Ana needs cash, which they all do all the time, she's willing to sell things for even less than the cost of the yarn.
I asked Danelia how come only Ana Maria did the selling. Why didn't they have Rosa or Mirna do selling? I said they were intelligent and had good personalities and would probably be good at it. I didn't understand her reply--it was something about the three originals, and Ana not doing much weaving. But Danelia and Mirian hardly ever sell, they don't even go in the products room when people come in. I asked Rosa and she said they don't let anyone handle money but the those three. That's too bad. But my intent was to put a bee in her bonnet, and maybe she'll think about it. I'd hoped for a chance to ask Mirian the same thing but I didn't get her in conversation alone once I'd noticed what was happening.
Do you want me to send you some of the products? I haven't gone through my stash yet to see what I have. I think I may have a couple of bolsos, but I'm not sure. And some of the new things. I'd like your opinion.
AND--what do YOU do when you sell for them? No one told me anything about selling, except Lee told them and me when I sold their things they got all the money, but when Alan sold, it went to pay for yarn. So they were really anxious to send as much as they could with me so they'd get some cash. And with last year's stuff, I did send them cash, American dollar bills, for them to change into cordobas. It's now 9.50 cordobas on the mercado negro (that's what they call it on the TV business programs, but sometimes the bank won't sell cordobas when the price gets high), so American dollars are good to get.
I was so happy when they sold for American prices in the shop there. Especially the first time, when Ana had been selling cheap and now the prices were on the product, and she hated to tell them what the prices were and they bought anyway. You could see how surprised she was. And the others were jubilant. Marketing, marketing. I hate it.
Alan asked me to remind them that they owed $1250 for this last shipment, and he wanted them to start putting products aside to pay for that. They said they knew it. Sometime in out late discussions, they would say that Alan was their brother whom they love deeply, and I was their mama. Alan gets them yarn and Elena gets them money. That's scary. Really scary.
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