Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My Biggest Sewing News To Date...


I’ve been looking forward to sharing with all of you my most exciting sewing news to date!  I’m starting a social enterprise!!!  What’s a social enterprise you may ask?  It’s defined by the UK government as “businesses with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders or owners”.

But first, let me start at the beginning….

This summer I signed-up for a free workshop run over the course of three weekends through the University called ‘Ingenious Women.’  The workshop was described as promoting entrepreneurial thinking in the workplace.  The weekends covered the three main topics of creativity, cash and control.  Intrigued, I sent in an application to attend the course.  I heard I was on the waiting list to attend but very quickly after that I got my acceptance letter for the course!

I didn’t know anyone ahead of time who was attending the course, so on the first day…I showed up for the bus and met lots of other women around my age and I knew straight away it was going to be an amazing experience.  In the crowd I did see one woman I knew….and her name was Javita.  Javita is doing her PhD at the University and we had met up a couple of times previously to talk about her PhD work.  Straight away Javita and I connected.  She’s doing her PhD on therapeutic approaches for working with children who have experienced child sexual abuse.  After speaking with Javita about her work in India and the not-for-profit organization she started there with her husband called the Nedan Foundation, I knew she was an amazing woman. Just through talking over coffee I felt that we were bringing out the passion in each other for the work that we do.  In the words of Anne of Green Gables…we were definitely ‘kindred spirits’.

Javita and I

So I was delighted to see Javita at the bus-stop.  Little did I know in less than 3 hours an idea would be born that would see us starting a social enterprise together….

Our first activity at the Ingenious Women workshop was called our ‘deadly 50’.  We had to introduce ourselves to the other participants (about 25 other women) using just 50 words that explained what we hoped to get out of the workshop.  Here’s my ‘deadly 50’:

My name is Debi and during the day I’m a researcher who focuses on preventing violence against women and children and in the evenings I’m an active blogger and seamstress.  I would love to combine these two passions and hope to explore through this course different ideas on ways to do this.

The crazy thing?  Not more than 10 people later…Javita stood up and gave her ‘deadly 50’ introduction.  She talked about the Nedan Foundation but she also talked about an initiative that has been going since 2008 called ‘Weaving Destination’ which builds upon the weaving tradition in Northeast India (which is very similar to the one in Scotland except in India all the weavers are women).  What started as a women’s weaving collective with capital funding from the UN to develop a weaving center (using women’s own home-based looms) is now an initiative with three centers which employs 65 women.  All of these women come from the indigenous Bodo communities in Assam, India.  Due to the region’s location in the Northeast of India (bordering Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar and China), Assam suffers very high rates of human trafficking especially among indigenous communities.  All of the women employed through Weaving Destination are either survivors of human trafficking, living with HIV/AIDS or are female migrant returnees who are highly vulnerable to re-trafficking, social exclusion and poverty.



The times we had met, I'd never told Javita about my hobby of sewing and she'd never mentioned the Weaving Destination!  So when I gave my introduction, I saw her mouth fall open.  And when she gave hers my mouth fell open!  The instructor actually stopped and said ‘You two need to talk to each other’! And talk we did!  In fact, we couldn’t stop talking to each other!!!  Every workshop we were in the corner discussing plans to merge our work and start a social enterprise in the UK. 


The goal?  To promote the finest ethical silk (OH YES—Ethical Silk…more on that to come), vintage and local-inspired cotton print fabrics and products hand-woven by indigenous women from Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), Assam, India to the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) and sewing communities in Scotland and globally.  And to reinvest 100% of the profits back into Weaving Destination and the charitable work of Nedan Foundation for work in the community to end trafficking and to provide sustainable livelihoods for indigenous women and their families.

Freakin’ awesome right??

So during the summer and autumn, Javita and I have been hard at work.  Starting a business and especially a social enterprise is hard work.  But I feel so incredibly blessed because Javita and I have so much fun together.  We get on so well and having a partner to run ideas by and work through things together has been so amazing.

We were recently awarded the Social Innovation Incubator Award from the Melting Pot, which is Scotland’s premiere social enterprise hub.  We were blown away—all of the support we have received has been amazing.  This award provides us with a year’s worth of social enterprise business training, personal coaching, and workspace including use of a phone and laptop!!! 


Now you may be thinking:  Didn’t you just get a promotion at your job?  Oh yes! And I have no plans on leaving my day job; I absolutely love it.  This will be an après work project.  The melting pot is open late on Tuesdays and Thursdays and Javita and I spend from 5-9pm there every week plus lots of weekend work.  And I am absolutely loving it!!  I have never been so fired-up in my life.  I truly believe this work will make a difference in ending trafficking and violence against women and girls in this region and at the same time will provide fab-u-lous fabrics to those of us who are in our own ways developing a new culture of creativity and consumerism through our sewing.

A sneak peek at one of the Weaving Destination handwoven scarves

I am SO excited to share this news with all of you….many more details and posts to come!  We do have some finished products we will be selling—mainly scarves that we hope to have up on Etsy at the beginning of December.  I’ve been busy working with Javita and the weavers on fabric designs and we’ll be launching our own website and a fabric collection in the New Year!  We also hope to do some bespoke fabric collections and finished products (an example being conference bags, etc.) and are so interested in hearing from you if you have ideas for potential collaborations!  Most of all, it would be great if you could spread the word!  Thank you all for all your lovely words of support!!

82 comments:

  1. Bravo!!! What a fabulous idea! Very proud of you.

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  2. Wow. WOW!!! I love stories like this. Congratulations to both of you and I hope your enterprise makes an amazing, positive difference for the women and girls in northern India. :) 

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  3. That sounds amazing!  Looking forward to see what's coming.

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  4. Wow, congratulations.  What a wonderful project.  I am looking forward to reading about this project.  Well done!!

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  5. Wow, what an amazing challenge and project you two have undertaken! I'm so thrilled for you and can't wait to hear more about it. Congrats on hatching such an important endeavor!!

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  6. What an amazing idea!! I will buy some fabric when you have it available. Ethical silk sounds wonderful!!! You two were brought together for a reason and your passion for loving those in need is inspiring.

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  7. Dear Debi, I am impressed beyond words and so proud of you. What an amazing opportunity. Best of luck to you and Javita. If anyone can make a success of such a project it is you. Please keep us posted and best of luck. 

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  8. All Style and All SubstanceNovember 20, 2012 2:10 AM

    Debbie, you are unstoppable! I look forward to supporting this wonderful initiative & seeing it grow very big! Best of luck,
    Adrienne xoAnd I liked the Anne of Green Gables reference! :-)

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  9. Best of luck to the both of you!

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  10. Congratulations! You are awesome, and it is great to see people fired up for such a worthwhile project. The luckiest people are those who can find meaningful work that goes beyond a living - a mission, in the best sense of the word.
    Can't wait to buy fabric from you. All the best wishes to you both.

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  11. Wow! Just amazing. I will be happy to support your cause and acquire some awesome fabrics at the same time. Genius.

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  12. That is really really cool!  Best of luck in your endeavor!

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  13. Oh my god this is AMAZING! WOW! I will be first in line to buy some of the fabric you will be making. Ethical and supporting a great cause? Yes please! :-)

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  14. WOW!  This is so cool!  I can't wait to hear more about this venture!  

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  15. Debi, you're an inspiration. Congrats on the award and best of luck to you and Javita!

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  16. Hooray! You're an amazing and inspiring person, Debi! I'm so glad I've gotten to know you! Best of luck!

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  17. Wow, you are both such amazing women! What a fabulous experience these workshops would of been, and how fantastic The Melting Pot sounds!!!

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  18. Wow, what great synergy! I look forward to hearing more of this remarkable project!

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  19. This is so exciting! I will be eagerly awaiting more news on this. One of my dreams is to do something like this in the future. I love that you are using sewing to meet people's needs. I can't wait to hear more!

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  20. Elizabeth from SEWNNovember 20, 2012 5:58 AM

    Wow, that is so amazing.  I wish you the best of luck in your new venture.  

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  21. Congratulations on finding such a splendid kindred spirit!  What an amazing tale of being in the right place at the right time.  I can't wait to see what goodies the project put up for sale on Etsy, I would love to support such an amazing cause for women suffering hostile social conditions.

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  22. Oh how brilliant Debi!  That's fantastic!!  I'm looking forward to hearing more about it.  :-)

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  23. That is an awe inspiring idea, how wonderful. Really looking forward to future pists on your progress. Well done :)

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  24.  So excited for you both , looking forward to hearing of your progress .....

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  25. Amazing! I really look forward to hearing more about this and buying fabric in support!

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  26. Wonderful, wonderful news Debi, this was obviously meant to be! x

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  27. Great initiative! Wishing you lots of success.

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  28. That's fantastic!

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  29. :) and how fabulous is that.. you are one very special lady, debi.. can't wait to see the fabrics :)

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  30. MargueritedesignsNovember 20, 2012 8:11 AM

    That's a truly wonderful thing you're doing and I look forward to seeing what happens from here.

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  31. Wow Debi! This is amazing news! Great job and good luck!

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  32. Wow that's awesome! Best of luck and can't wait to see how it goes :)

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  33. Debi that is AMAZING! Congratulations! How wonderful you met such a kindred spirit and what a fantastic idea. The very best of luck x

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  34. Wow congratulations! Sounds like hard work but what a worthwhile cause.

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  35. Debi (if I may) that is wonderful: I can really hear your excitement & commitment through your writing.  I'm another sewing academic, and I tend to keep those things separate. But I have another consuming interesting (ballet) which I've manage to combine with my research and writing in the latest thing I'm doing, and it is wonderful to bring bits of your life together. THat's what we're here for: to make *our* meaning of the world.

    So much strength wished to you & Javita.

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  36. This is amazing - thank you for all your hard work!!

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  37. This is really cool! I already want to buy your fabrics! 

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  38. Fantastic enterprise, well done you both! I would *love* to collaborate by using your fabric in my children's clothing line, drop me an email if you want to chat.

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  39. Don't know why Discus didn't identify me! It's Amanda from Kitschy Coo, we met at the Scotland Crafter's Ceilidh.

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  40. rehanon mackenzieNovember 20, 2012 9:46 AM

    Hi Debi,

    I cried when I read this post.  I'm a soppy old devil but when I learn about people in this crazy, busy old life trying to make a difference it gets me. I think the pair of you are wonderful and I look forward to supporting this social enterprise.  It sounds to me like you and Javita were destined to meet.  

    All the best,

    Rehanon

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  41. You're a fireball of energy, and there's no place you can't go, Debi! This is wonderful news. I know many lives will change for the better because of you and Javita. I may have a contact to offer in the international conference business when you're ready for it. You can contact me through my blog; my email's there as well. Wishing you lots of success!

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  42. This is SO exciting, you're amazing! 

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  43. Amazing, Debi! Truly amazing!

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  44. Just had to dry some tears out of my eyes before I could type! Girl, that is why there is this saying: coincidence doesn't exist! Everything happens for a reason and this has happened to you and Javita! How great you two are joined together to turn an little rock in the river called Earth. Bless you and all the best with your terrific entreprise! I will follow you closely and looking forward to buy a no doubtly beautiful fabric from you! A big hug from the Netherlands, GonnieMarie

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  45. What an amazing project and I wish you both every success. Do let us know when you have the Etsy shop running, I'd love to buy a scarf to support the women who weave them.

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  46. Wow! That's fantastic news, such an amazing project, it certainly sounds like you two are made for this and I love that your passion is helping to change the world. The best of luck to you both, I hope it's a terrific success!

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  47. This is absolutely incredible Debi! And so exciting! Using ethical fabrics has been in the back of my mind for such a long time, so this is the answer to a lot of prayers for me :) I can't wait to see what the pair of your produce together and I wish you every luck in the world!

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  48. This is so above and beyond what I expected upon beginning to read.  This is life changing stuff and I am so happy for you, so glad that you are there to do this important work.

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  49. This venture is very exciting indeed. The fabric looks fantastic as are your ideas, and also their production aids ladies in need. Sounds like a win win to me! Wishing you all the best x

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  50. That sounds amazing, best of luck to the both of you. I'll be keeping a look out for when I can purchase x

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  51. Congratulations---this is such an amazing story. Please keep us informed of the progress with this new venture. I know we don't "know" each other in person, but as a reader, I feel so happy and proud for you!!!

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  52. Debi, you are so inspiring!  Bravo for throwing yourself into such a worthwhile project!

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  53. This is so exciting and wonderful. I was smiling all through your descriptions of every event that led up to your joint venture. What a great cause and how perfect for you. I think every one of us longs for the moment when our interests, beliefs, and skills somehow merge to become "the calling" and it is an amazing inspiration to see this happening for you. I will be so interested to see the beautiful products and more news about the foundation. Congratulations to you and Javita!

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  54. Debi_myhappysewingplaceNovember 20, 2012 6:09 PM

    Thank you so much everyone! I am so touched by all your lovely comments!  Thank you!!!

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  55. Debi_myhappysewingplaceNovember 20, 2012 6:10 PM

    Fantastic! Thanks Uta! I will definitely email you about the conference business contact!!

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  56. Debi, this is so fantastic and very very exciting! Can't wait to find out more about your enterprise!

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  57. Debi_myhappysewingplaceNovember 20, 2012 6:11 PM

    Thanks for spreading the word Kathryn! What a sweet comment!

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  58. Debi_myhappysewingplaceNovember 20, 2012 6:11 PM

    Thanks so much Rehanon!  I definitely do think we were destined to meet!

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  59. Debi_myhappysewingplaceNovember 20, 2012 6:12 PM

    Hi Amanda!!  I would LOVE to collaborate with you as well!  That would be amazing.  I'll drop you a line to chat more about it!  xoxoxoxo

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  60. Debi_myhappysewingplaceNovember 20, 2012 6:13 PM

    It is really wonderful to be able to combine my passions and I'm so glad you have been able to do the same! Big hugs!

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  61. Wow Debi!  I left a comment last night when I read this on my phone, but I guess the message didn't get transmitted, and I really wanted to make sure that I could say congradulations!  At the risk of sounding like some kind of motivational seminar, isn't it amazing the synergies that happen when we take people out of their usual context?  Please keep us up to date with the enterprise, because I'm sure you'll find your first supporters & customers here. 

    (I've been reading "How to Change the World", "The End of Poverty", "Half the Sky", "The Grandest Challenge". "Dead Aid", and "Banker to the Poor" over the last two years.  All these books touch on people who somehow manage to look at the world from a different perspective and make positive changes based on social enterprise.  Now I can add you and Javita to my list of inspirations - and I hope too to be able to do something like this someday soon.)

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  62. Thank you, all for your wonderful comments. 
    This is a very exciting project, and it's been great to watch it take shape and progress so quickly. 

    As an Anthropologist with Sustainable Development leanings, these are the types of projects that really thrill me - increasing agency through the employment of traditional skills.I'm very proud of Debi and Javita, and will support them in any way I can.

    Thank you, once again, for your encouragement and support - it means so much to Debi (and thus, to me as well).

    Happy Thanksgiving, all!

    David

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  63. Oh, how very exciting! Don't forget to investigate Kiva.org for funding -- low interest loans to people who are in business in just such enterprises, all over the world.

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  64. Yup, freaking fabulous.

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  65. That is so, so great. 

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  66. Congratulations Debi - this all sounds fantastic! Looking forward to hearing how it goes!

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  67. Debi, this is awesome news!!! What a fantastic project. And incredible serendipity about the meeting of minds with Javita. Can't wait to see more of the collection, and do let me know if there's anything I can do to help xx

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  68. Awesome, awesome, awesome news Debi!!!!

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  69. Debi_myhappysewingplaceNovember 22, 2012 7:35 AM

    Thank you so much Vicki!!!  I am going to have to check out these books...they sound very inspirational!

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  70. Debi, I never cease to be amazed by you!  Please let us non-sewers know how we can help you with your social enterprise!  I'd be happy to promote your products on my blog and through twitter.  And if you have time to make a badge or something similar, I'd love to link to you on my blog. :)  Keep up the awesome work!

    P.S. I also read "Half the Sky" and think you'd find it super inspirational!

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  71. Hey Debi!  I already left a comment here, but it's not showing up, so let me try again.  Basically, I just wanted to say that I'd be happy to promote your social enterprise and products on my blog, twitter feed, facebook page, etc.  Just let me know what I can do!

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  72. so so cool! I got a bit choked up reading this actually.  Go for it, use all the gifts God has given you and make  a difference in the world! Very excited for you!

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  73. Hi Debi, I've never posted before on your blog though have read it for a while. I'm based in Glasgow and just recently commented on Tilly's post about the ethics of the fashion industry. My concern about dressmaking has been how do I know that my purchased fabric is ethical. And now if I buy from you, I'll be able to know - genius! 
    I'm very new to sewing but the online sewing community seems such a supportive, collaborative place. I wonder if a sewalong using one of your fabrics mightn't be a good way to spread the word? Each person buys say 2 metres and you agree a date for a reveal and you can see all the options that the fabric has been used for? That way the word gets out to all their readers too? Just an idea. Anyway, best of luck with this venture, it is very inspiring and seems to be fate. 

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  74. This is such an admirable project!! I was already in awe of your sewing and day job, now you've gone and upped your awesomeness!!  I can't wait to hear more about this. I wish you luck and success!

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  75. This is so awesome Debi!  I am proud to know you and hope to meet Javita someday.  I'd love to buy tablecloths and napkins -- most especially if they can be organic cotton to help keep cotton farmers/workers and the land used for growing cotton free of horrible pesticides.  Can't wait for the next update on this venture!

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  76. You are amazing, Debi <3  I look forward to seeing what your new venture brings!

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  77. I am so happy for you, my friend!  This is such an amazing collaboration - I'm looking forward to all of your magnificent posts about this social enterprise!!!  XOXO!

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  78. I think this is the first blog post that ever gave me shivers! So happy for you both. Just goes to prove that you never know what is around the next corner, however much you plan. I bet you never dreamed of anything like this. Would love to have the option of buying ethical silk especially if it means supporting a project like this. :-)

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  79. Debi_myhappysewingplaceDecember 29, 2012 12:44 AM

    That is a BRILLIANT idea!!! I love it! Thank you!

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  80. Debi_myhappysewingplaceDecember 29, 2012 12:45 AM

    Thank you my dear!

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I read each and every comment--thank you so much!

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