'Handmade with Love' Goes to South Africa!
We decided early in 2021 that we wanted to expand our range of soft goods to include a variety of colors, styles, and textures; we wanted there to be something perfect for everyone! When we came across a brand located in South Africa we knew they were exactly what we were looking for. Their story brought a smile to our faces and their product ranges made us desperate to cozy up.
Now that the weather is turning and the holiday season is upon us, we thought it would be the perfect time to introduce Blankets from Africa to everyone! This delightful group of women work to create lovely blankets woven from the highest-quality, plush wool we have ever seen. Not to mention the fantastic work they do to support women and their community.
But don't take our word for it!
Let the founder, Roslyn Bechet, tell you all about it!
#JointheJourney with us to South Africa!
‘Blankets from Africa’ was born out of a road-trip through the Karoo, part of the heartland of South Africa, where the level of unemployment, especially among the women, had reached alarming levels, with little apparent prospect of improvement. They provide these women with the means to create a product out of natural wool sheared from the very sheep which surround them. The provision of a simple pattern, needles and pure wool is the catalyst for them to generate an income, enjoy a community spirit of working in a group and experience feelings of achievement and of being valued.
Q: What is your background and how did (your company) come about? How long have you had this business/when did you start it?
A: For over a decade I ran a large interior design business, primarily designing and implementing projects in the hospitality and commercial sectors. Blankets from Africa was born out of a road-trip I made several years ago, through parts of the Karoo. In all of the rural towns through which I travelled, the level of unemployment amongst women in particular was in excess of 90%. I contacted various local people in these small towns and slowly gathered small groups of women who wanted to improve their dire financial and social circumstances by learning how to knit to a quality where we would then be able to market the products. Blankets from Africa has now been operative for 6 years, during which time we have literally changed the lives of 40 or so families around the country.
Instead of these ladies relying on meagre government grants to survive, they now have an avenue through which they can earn several times that amount; have restored levels of self-esteem and most importantly have a skill which we nurture and continue to improve.
Q: What is your company aesthetic / vibe and where do you draw your design inspiration? Do you design with your artisans and others, or do you provide all of the creative input and patterns?
A: Our company aesthetic is to provide an artisanal product which is hand knitted but doesn’t look hand knitted. Our quality and standards are uncompromising and we insist upon using only the highest quality, locally sourced raw materials. I do all the designing and my inspiration comes from many different sources especially nostalgia.
Q: What is your company ethos and your company values? Is there a particular mission or goal behind your business, or particular causes your business participates in?
A: The intention behind the whole initiative of Blankets from Africa, was to improve the lot of the masses of unemployed ladies in our country. While the initiative had its roots in the Karoo, we have expanded the reach of Blankets from Africa and presently have pods of active knitters in places like Graaf Reinet; Somerset East; Uitenhage; Gqeberha (Formerly Port Elizabeth); Cape Town and as far afield as Mpondoland.
"The heart featured on every ‘Blanket from Africa’ is the embodiment of all that lies behind this community project. The heart of these rural communities is the network of women who, with dignity of their own, strive each day to provide support and warmth for their families."
- Roslyn Bechet
Q: Please tell us a little bit about the materials you use, why you select them and what makes them unique/interesting/high quality etc.
A: Our initiative began by using only export quality Merino Wool; this wool comes from sheep farms in the Karoo. As our knitters’ skills and techniques improved and we expanded our range of items, we introduced a range of pure cotton – grown and organically dyed here in South Africa. Our packaging and labelling is all sourced locally as we strive to support smaller local businesses in line with our wider intention of reducing the alarming level of unemployment in our country.
Q: Please tell us a little bit about the technique used to create your pieces, how you chose that and what makes these techniques unique or special.
A: We focus on hand knitting and a small amount of crochet. Hand knitting is something most women can master and it is easy to learn. Our entry level patterns make up a large part of our range, using high quality yarns. This is what makes our products really special.
Q: How many knitters do you work with/employ?
A: The number varies as individual knitter’s circumstances change; but we have had as many as 46 knitters active over the last 6 years.
Q: How long does it take, on average, for your group to knit each piece?
A: The time to complete a blanket or garment depends on how large the item is and whether it is knitted from pure Merino Wool or pure cotton. Our Merino blanket wool is chunky and a quicker knit approx. 1 week. A cotton throw can take as long as 3 weeks to complete.
Q: How has COVID affected your business?
Q: Has COVID affected your lead times in regards to fulfillment? Can you explain what suppliers go through to collect products?
A: Yes it has as our online business has grown enormously since Lockdown began and our ability to train/employ more women has been severely hampered.