June 18, 2018
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Hand-stitched goods from Carasque featured at PICA fair

By Ardeana Hamlin, BDN Staff

The act of threading a needle and fashioning fabric into useful items is a symbolic language people everywhere understand and admire. For most of us, encountering such goods comes at local craft fairs, church bazaars or at the studios of local artists.

Every year as a part of the perennial yarn, cloth and thread conversation, handmade goods created by nimble fingers and talented hands in Bangor’s sister city, Carasque, El Salvador, are featured at the annual sale of those goods in Bangor. Clothing, toy animals, blankets, tablecloths and napkins, aprons, T-shirts, tote bags, shoulder bags and hammocks made by a sewing cooperative in Carasque will be available for sale 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5, at PICA-Peace and Justice Center, 170 Park St., Bangor.

Some of the items are hand-embroidered, some are crocheted, some are stitched on machines. But every item has received the attention of sewing cooperative members.

The bags the cooperative make have been improved, Kates said. The crocheted bags are lined and have zippers. The tote bags also have zippers.

New this year, said Katherine Kates, a member of the PICA marketing committee, are “onesies” for babies. The garments are made of organic cotton from Texas, and the clothing is sewn under Fair Trade conditions. Each onesie is hand-embroidered.

Also new this year are “animalitos,” small crocheted rabbits and elephants and hand-embroidered pillowcases in traditional white or cream, in more flamboyant colors.

A large Christmas arpillera, an embroidered and appliqued piece, will be available for sale. It features a manger scene and is a “Salvadoran take on a familiar scene,” Kates said.

The Carasque sewing cooperative now has 14 women who crochet items and 40 women who sew and embroider. “The number of cooperative members has grown as young people have grown up and become interested,” Kates said, adding that the population of Carasque is 360 to 400.

Kates said the cooperative now has a new building to house its work. Funds for the building came from a grant from Spain. Co-op women designed the building and built the roof. The building is equipped with a veranda where the women like to sit, embroider, crochet and tell stories.

“The cooperative got its start 1992 after peace came to the region and we sent a truck to Carasque loaded with things the village needed. Among those things were several antique treadle sewing machines.” Now, the co-op women have electric sewing machines to work with. They hold a five-year contract from the government of El Salvador to make school uniforms for Salvadoran children.

Serving on the marketing committee with Kates are Francine Wickes, Kathleen Caldwell and Karen Volckhausen.

Proceeds from the sale will benefit the sewing co-op, to buy materials for their work and to pay the women who make the goods.

For more information, call PICA at 947-4203.


The Page Farm and Home Museum on the University of Maine campus will hold its annual Holiday Shoppe, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4. Look for fiber products from Maine fiber producers, as well as items made from native yarns.

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