Arpillera from Peru

Made in the shanty towns of Lima,

supported by the Anglican Church

Contact Nick or Chris: phone or text 07896 162461 or

Shanty Towns

Background to the Arpillera Project

Please also have a look at Threads of Hope website; this is a USA based organisation also helping the project through sales of Arpillera. Their site has even more information and background about the project.

Arpillera ladies at work 5Peru has long been famous for its textiles. In fact, textiles dating back 6,000 years have been discovered - the fabric intact and their brilliant colors undiminished, preserved from deterioration by the dry desert air. Arpilleras are a very common cultural form of decoration in Peruvian households. These wall hangings tell the story of the region where the artists are from, describing the local life of the community. Typical scenes include a wedding, the marketplace, workers in the fields, even their livestock. In English terms, Arpilleras are embroidered collages, or 3-dimensional quilts.

Arpillera Ladies at work 3The Arpillera Sewing Project consists of groups of women in the pueblos jovenes and invasiones, located in the desert hills on the outskirts of Lima, who gather together weekly to work on sewing projects and improve their sewing skills. 75% of heads of households are underemployed; the majority making a living from informal trades in construction work as masons or assistants. Their average monthly income range is less than $150 (£100) /month. The material that the women use is off-cuts purchased from shops and factories by weight. After purchasing a bundle, they sort it and decide how they can best use the fabric. They meet together on a weekly basis, then continue working at home. The women have become good friends and discuss their problems and pray together at the weekly meetings. The Arpilleras they create, depict scenes of both country life and city life in Peru, and also biblical events, such as Noah's Ark or Jesus' birth and the visit of the 3 Wise Men. The work is very detail-oriented and requires advanced skills.

A member of the English-speaking congregation from the Episcopal Diocese of Peru , Jean Samaniego, leads this group of women. Products include Christmas trees, Christmas stockings, Christmas tree surrounds, cushion covers, wall hangings, oven mitts, teacosies, toilet roll covers, bags and Bible covers.

Arpillera Ladies at Work 2The revenue generated from the sale of these products helps reinforce the women’s family budget. Without support, many needs would not be met including their children’s education.

Arpillera Ladies at Work 1The project is specifically for making articles to be sold in the United States and the United Kingdom. The money raised through the sale of Arpillera articles goes directly back to the ladies who sew the articles. They are required to use the money for the betterment of themselves and their household. For example, the income may be used to take a class in sewing, or build an extra room onto their house in order to host an Arpillera group, or send their child to a better school or to be educated in a trade.

Items currently brought across to the UK include Christmas Trees – embroidered collages in the shape of Christmas Trees and with subject matter surrounding the Nativity – cushion covers (a recent one depicted scenes from Noah’s Ark), wonderful stoles for priests and rather spectacular large wall hangings. Chris and Nick Roberts look after the majority of UK sales, some are done through the Diocese of Worcester, partner Diocese of Peru. Chris and Nick have been supporting the project since 2004.

Financial and material support for this project will help to continue to provide resources, training and income to people in one of Lima's poorest areas.

View across the shanty town

One of our early messages, some years ago, from Jean, the project co-ordinator in Lima

Dear Nick,

Many thanks for the profit. We are buying tables to work on, as we always need more surfaces, and are putting in some wide shelves in a room we have acquired in the church where we work. One of the groups is now up to 10 members. We now have 3 groups: Sermilla (which means Seed) which is the original group, now with 8 members. The daughter of one of the originals was the last to join, and then married and now comes with her 2 year-old boy.

The second group began in 2000, and was taught by one of the founding ladies. Various babies have arrived since then, and the mums have worked with baby asleep on lap while they sew over him/her, or walk around with baby on back while they continue sewing. They are called Dorcas.

The third group began in 2005, and we funded their teaching with the extra you sent from sales, and bought fabrics for them to work with for the first few months. We now have something put aside in a revolving fund, so they can buy more cheaply in larger quantities and then pay it back. Of this group 2 are studying nursing, with one specializing in the handicapped. Their income is used to pay for their study materials. 

There are now 25 women directly involved in our meetings. They then give work to other women (men also) as they buy some of the dolls from someone who specializes in them, they buy baskets, sometimes they buy the fruits and veg. for the market scenes. In fact, one of the ladies is caring for a 12 year-old orphan boy, and has taught him to make fruits and veg. She then brings them to the group and sells them, to give him an income. 

The basic income the ladies receive for their work always helps towards upgrading their housing. Several have been able to put a proper roof on, and have gradually been able to build brick walls. several of their older children have completed training: one as a nurse, another is completing a 3 year course in mechanics, and another is in his 5th year of law studies. They have all had eye tests and several definitely needed glasses, and then extensive dental treatment has been most necessary for several. These things would have been neglected without the steady income from the arpilleras.