Priscilla Kibbee

I love to travel all over the globe shopping for textiles to add to my wearable art. I have taught quilting to school children in Nepal, seminole patchwork to seamstresses in Thailand, and jackets and embellishment to quilters in Turkey where I also served as a judge at 2 of their International Quilt Shows. I have created garments for 5 Fairfield and Bernina Fashion Shows and teach classes on embellishment and wearable art. Lately I have been leaning more toward making art quilts.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Sewing Project - Panajachel

The Sewing Project - Mayan Families - Panajachel Guatemala

The sewing project is an Income Generating Activity (IGA) aimed at providing women with sewing skills. Our goals are: to train women in using a sewing machine; to promote economic growth of the participant, her family, and her community; to promote the transfer of skills between participants; to provide the participants with the resources to market their products; to promote the habit of saving money; to provide the participants with basic business knowledge; to train the participants with life skills.
Traditionally, only men have had access to working with sewing machines. Hand sewing, which can be painstakingly intricate and time consuming, has been reserved for women. The woman's traditional role has been the caretaker of the family, which includes sewing for them by hand. With proper training and a sewing machine, an Indigenous woman can better tend to the needs of her family, as well as have a marketable skill to contribute to the family's income. Equipped with a sewing machine, women are able to produce more items in less time, and have a higher quality product, which increases the chances that she will be able to sell her items for a profit.

Featured Artisan

Rosario Ramos Xulcut is 35 years old and a mother of 4 children, 3 girls and one boy between the ages of 4 and 14. She has been associated with Mayan Families since 2007, when she participated in the Sewing Project and received her sewing machine. Ever since, she has been making machine-sewn items such as aprons, shirts and bags, for herself and her children. In addition, she also sells those items to the local women of San Jorge and Panajachel. Because of the knowledge she gained through the sewing project, she is able to help provide for her children's school expenses. Her husband, Alejandro, 37 years old, does odd jobs in town in order to earn an income, and he and Rosario combine their income to keep their kids in school.

The Sewing Instructor

Alberto Bocel is our highly skilled, full-time instructor. He has over twenty years of experience as a tailor, and has been the instructor for the program ever since its inception in 2006. He has taught every single woman who has participated in this project.


Classes are made available to the women based on donations which pay for the machines. A contribution of $65 enables an Indigenous woman to improve her life by learning to use a sewing machine.

The women pay a small fee to be able to attend the 6 month course. We hold regular classes in Panajachel and in the nearby town of San Jorge la Laguna. Between 6 and 10 women are chosen to participate in the classes, which are held twice a week for six months total.

The demand for this program is high, and we typically have a backlog of women waiting to get into new classes.

Successes of the Sewing Project

This project has had wonderful success since its inception in 2006. Some successes are listed below:

•Women save money by making their own traditional aprons, clothing, and household goods
•Women save money by making and mending clothing for their children
•Women earn money by making and selling aprons, bags, blouses, clutches, coin purses, curtains, bed sets, kitchen accessories, bathroom accessories, and shorts
•Women earn money by mending clothes for other people
•Women are able to contribute to the economics of the home
•Women are able to make financial contributions related to their children's health and education
•Women are less dependent on men for money
•Women feel empowered
Graduates are now able to use machines to sew the following items:

•Aprons (traditional, for adults)

•Aprons (traditional, for children)


•Coin purses


•Bed sets
•Kitchen accessories
•Bathroom accessories

Other non-sewn items made by the women in the sewing project:

•Beaded jewelry

•Beaded jewelry ornaments
•Traditionally woven fabrics

•Traditionally woven shawls

•Traditionally woven napkins
•Traditionally embroidered shirts
•Traditionally embroidered belts

The items made by participants are typically sold in their own communities. Though some women do travel outside of their village to sell those items in nearby towns, the cost of transportation often makes it difficult for women to travel to farther villages. We occasionally hold artisan markets at our offices, where we invite our women to sell their goods to our visitors.

If you would like to donate go to



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