Meet the Pachamama Knitters
Pachamama are a small group of woolly enthusiasts who believe the best things in life are made by hand.
Founded by David and Cathy in 1990, Pachamama began at a small market stall in London, trading goods from the Andean Mountains of South America. From 1996, they began working with knitters in Nepal, trading in hand crafted wool and cotton products. Pachamama's ethos is rooted in strong and sustainable relationships with their suppliers based on mutual respect for all links in the chain of production. They have been working with their knitters for significant periods of time - some for over 20 years - with a view to ensuring continuous, solid economic and social growth for a large community of people.
Their knitters usually fulfil orders as a supplement to their income, often working from home to fit in with their schedule. The Pachamama team are continually amazed at the intricate detail and beautiful craftmanship that the knitters produce every year, and Pachamama ensure that they are always paid a fair wage for their highly skilled work. A small number of people work in a factory environment making hand framed knitting, hand finishing and packing their garments, as well as producing a range of hand felted items.
All of these people work in excellent conditions and receive benefits and pay above the local standards. Despite the seasonal nature of their business, Pachamama is committed to providing year-round orders for their knitters to ensure a regular and reliable income. This has been especially significant over the past year. Whilst many fashion/accessory companies were heavily hit by big factory closures, Pachamama's knitters can work at home, which means they could continue to knit, and consequently earn, without compromising their health and safety.
Nepal is a country where many of the poorest and most vulnerable people will have no safety net against the economic and social impact of this unprecedented global pandemic, and Pachamama pledged from the outset that they would support their knitters by guaranteeing them as much work as they would like. Pachamama will continue to do this, and keep their knitters earning an income.
As part of their commitment to their suppliers, David and Cathy regularly visit Nepal to ensure that conditions remain excellent, and their producers are taken care of. Unfortunately, this has been impossible in recent times due to travel restrictions, however the knitters have been in touch to let the team know how they are doing.
One of the artisan producers out in Nepal who we spoke to is called Bimala. Bimala is from Ramechap and currently lives in Kathmandu with her husband and mother-in-law. She has been working with Pachamama since 2014. Bimala is one of Pachamama's highly skilled hand felters and is responsible for handmaking felted friends, with her favourite being Kevin the Lamb.
Throughout the global pandemic, Bimala has been the breadwinner of her family, working from home during lockdown after her husband sadly lost his construction job. Pachamama truly is a family business; Bimala’s mother-in-law has also taken up felting and now makes legs for their sheep decorations! Bimala says she feels proud to be a self-sufficient woman and doesn’t have to depend on her husband or family for financial support.
The majority of Pachamama knitters and felt workers are female. Producing with Pachamama helps women to enter the workforce in a way that can be scheduled around home and family commitments, whilst providing financial freedom. Roshani is one of Pachamama's knitters who specialises in creating sweaters. She has worked with Pachamama for 28 years and has met with David and Cathy several times during their visits to Nepal. According to Roshani, she enjoys the independence that knitting for Pachamama gives her. She doesn’t have to rely on her husband or family for money and has been able to pay for her children’s education from her salary.