Sabahar

Ethiopia

Inspired by ancient Ethiopian weaving traditions, Sabahar creates exquisitely handmade textiles from locally sourced, natural cotton fibres. The company was founded in 2004 by Kathy Marshall, a Canadian by birth but a twenty-year veteran of Ethiopia. She and her team have dedicated themselves to preserving and celebrating Ethiopia's rich weaving tradition. All of Sabahar's products are entirely hand made – from the spinning of the thread to the weaving of the fabric - and the craftsmen's skills combined with a modern, fresh design result in the creation of unique, richly textured fabrics.

Philosophy

Sabahar strives to create respectful, ethical and sustainable work opportunities for craftsmen in Ethiopia. They provide a sustainable income for a team of more than 120 people with earnings that are 250% above the industry average. All employees have permanent work contracts, a 37.5-hour work week, pension plans, paid vacation, maternity leave and medical coverage. Women hold 75% of management positions and all employees attend regular and comprehensive training. Sabahar has also installed a water filtration system to minimize its environmental impact.

How it is made

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    A Spacious, Airy Atelier

    Situated in the middle of Addis Abeba, Ethiopia's bustling capital city, Sabahar's airy and spacious atelier is located in a haven of green. It is here that the weavers, spinners, dyers and finishers make the intricate hand-woven cotton textiles.

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    Spinning the Cotton

    Cotton production has been a central component of rural and urban Ethiopian life for centuries. Sabahar uses cotton grown in lower elevation areas that is spun on drop spindles by their crafts(wo)men's talented hands. Hand spun cotton is very textured and soft and makes each product unique.

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    Dyeing the Threads

    Sabahar only uses environmentally friendly dyes for its cotton, such as coffee, onionskin, tea, safflower, marigold and cochineal. To further minimize its environmental footprint, Sabahar has also installed a sophisticated water recycling and purification system.

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    Hand Weaving the Cotton

    Hand weaving has been a way of life for centuries in Ethiopia and almost all textiles are still made on hand looms. The art of weaving is passed down from father to son, thus almost all weavers in Ethiopia are men. The techniques have not changed much for centuries but Sabahar has worked on introducing new patterns, colours and designs.

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    A Rich Yet Dying Heritage

    Sabahar works primarily with weavers from the Konso and Dorze ethnic groups that have the reputation of being the most skilled weavers. Generally, weavers remain a quite marginalized group and most still only work in the informal sector. As such, the art of weaving is disappearing as the newer generation is choosing to leave the trade.

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    Finishing the Product

    Two small yet dedicated teams of women ensure the finishing of each piece. One group of women make the fringes, a time-intensive process of twisting and knotting the end threads. And another group sews, cuts the ends of the fringes and quality checks each piece.

Products by Sabahar (Ethiopia)

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