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Johannesburg: House of Embroidery

September 13, 2019

I’ve been working on a project for the past month. Not only is it another wonderful way to use my time while traveling but it is one I get to share with you. I’ve been developing embroidery patterns for Global Artisans, a fair trade distributor for House of Embroidery. It’s amazing how much work one can do if you don’t sleep on several 16 hour flights. Kits should be available at the end of October both here in my shop and at Global Artisans.

It was a very welcome surprise when I learned that an upcoming international teaching trip to Johannesburg, South Africa would take me straight to the home of House of Embroidery. An absolute highlight of my time there was a day spent with Henneli Davie at the dye factory. Meeting the artisans who create these luscious threads was wonderful. Truly, the very best part about all of my travels is ALWAYS the people.

Henne is the owner of this lovely little factory – which is in reality a sweet little house in a nice suburb of Johannesburg.

house of embroidery factory

Walk in the entrance and you find the retail space, completely full of delicious eye candy – every color of perle cotton thread, silk ribbon, and six strand floss.

hennepin davie of house of embroidery

Henne, a former cake maker, took over the business from Louise who started the business in 1995 after a need for a change of pace in her business life. She introduced me to the artisans who create all this lusciousness. I didn’t get a photo of Thembi, who works the retail and office center.

Stephen the dye master and Esther the dye queen

Stephen used to be Louise’s gardener and is now the Dye Master, working with Esther the Dye Queen to color the lovely threads. Henne is determined to source all of her supplies sustainably and uses Novochron Huntsman dyes, imported from England where environmental regulations ensure responsible manufacture.

the dye room at house fo embroidery

Out the back door is a small shed housing the heating units. The actual process of dying is more about human effort than fancy equipment.

the simple dye shed

The house dyes 4 colors per day, four skeins each. Original skeins are kept in the inventory room and each new dye batch is carefully checked against the original (which is checked on a regular basis for sun fading) for color matching. Consistency is important. If you run out of a color in the middle of a project it is important to be able to match it when you buy more.

inventory room at house of embroidery

Once each skein is matched, it is ready for the winding room. Twists and cards are prepared for sale by Sarah, Patricia and Joyce.

The packaging and processing room at house of embroidery
the winding room, house of embroidery

All of the staff are family, aunts and sisters and nieces all working together. Stephen is also a pastor and each staff meeting begins with song and prayer. I would love to be there for that.

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Patti Maxwell
    September 15, 2019 at 6:29 pm

    Thank you for the behind the scenes tour. I have great respect for the care they take to produce their product, and love that they are all related and connected.

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