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The journey of handloom towels…
Sabahar’s iconic, soft and absorbent towels are beautiful due to the spinning skills which Ethiopian women have passed on to their daughters for generations. There are many artisans and unique skills.

The type of loom and balance between warp and weft threads influence the final product. How much a weaver ‘beats’ the weft (meaning how hard they pull back the reed when adding a weft thread) can make for a thinner or thicker towel. But it is mostly the touch of the women who spin the cotton, in terms of how much twist they put into their yarn, how thick or thin they pull out the fibers and how consistent the threads are, that determines the luxury factor of our towels.

Cotton spun by machine does not compare to that of hand spun cotton.

Sadly, hand spinning is a dying art.  Spinning on the drop spindle is extremely tedious, time-consuming and burdensome work. Plus, returns to labor are not good. “For years we have struggled to find ways to keep women employed as spinners, reduce the monotony of hand spinning, and enable women to earn more money”, says Kathy Marshall, Founder and Owner of Sabahar. “Twice, we have travelled to India in search of the right technology that would satisfy these 3 priorities.”


P.O. Box 1170,  Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,

Sabahar: “Today we feel we have made some progress towards our goals.”

In our lovely garden ‘training center’, we held a ½ day experience sharing and capacity building morning with 35 of our highly committed hand spinners. We wanted to strengthen our relationship with these women and hear their comments and suggestions. We talked about quality and timing issues of production, but also about the rate we pay for their work. We wanted to find common ground on production issues.

We also wanted to let the women try out the new way of spinning, as an alternative to using the drop spindle. To our surprise, some women wanted to shift to the new approach, and some preferred to remain with the drop spindle. But all of them seemed to appreciate the options and Sabahar’s willingness to provide the technology they prefer.

We also took the opportunity to let the women know how much we appreciate their long term work with us, and for them to know that we want and appreciate their feedback and ideas. We are proud of these women…and are so thankful that THEY are proud of their traditional skills. They loved to hear the stories of how our hand spun and woven towels can be found in more than 30 countries around the world.