Oh, The Industrious Women I Meet: I’m a Doula, a Silkworm Rearer, a Weaver, and…

Worldwide spin in public day - Muezart trip to Ri Bhoi

It was a bumpy ride to Diwon, a village in Ri Bhoi district of Northeast India. The air was crisp and fresh on September 21, 2019. The monsoon was still in full swing. The fields lush and green. Muezart was hosting an event in the village where we would be participating in the Worldwide Spin Outside Day.

We had a lot to accomplish on our short trip:

  1. Spin in public with a large group of women to create awareness about fiber and the art of spinning.
  2. Meet Kong Tmung and evaluate the plant-based dyeing of Eri silk yarn. She is dyeing Muezart Palette No. 1
  3. Meet with 15 women who are hand spinning, with a spindle, Muezart’s single yarn fingering weight yarn.
  4. Visit the homes of silkworm rearers who are supplying Muezart with beautiful Eri silk cocoons.

Nothing Starts Without Tea

Upon arrival at Kong Tmung’s home, our team was ready to set up in the street junction for our spin in public event. But, oh no, we couldn’t get to work without enjoying tea and snacks from our host. Of course, there is always the sharing of kwai too. Our host had prepared lovely home-made traditional snacks. Pitha which is steamed ground black rice with a bit of jaggery inside. After snacks, we set out to visit some of the silkworm rearers Muezart buys cocoons from.

Muezart Team enjoying tea and snacksThe Muezart team enjoying tea and steamed rice snacks in Kong Tmung's Weaving Studio
 Ri Bhoi rice cakes served to Muezart team                pathi Ri Bhoi rice cake
Steamed rice cake made with red rice called Pitha.

Have You Ever Met a Woman With a Proverbs 31 Life?

Let me introduce you to two such women. I want to share a glimpse into their lives. They will inspire you. You will see why Muezart wants to participate in their already fruitful and industrious work.

Ri Bhoi home of a silkworm rearerKHASI WOMEN FROM RI BHOI SHARE STORIES ABOUT THEIR DAILY LIFE.

"She shops around for the best yarns and cottons,
and enjoys knitting and sewing.
She’s like a trading ship that sails to faraway places
and brings back exotic surprises.
She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast
for her family and organizing her day.
She looks over a field and buys it,
then, with money she’s put aside, plants a garden.
First thing in the morning, she dresses for work,
rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.
She senses the worth of her work,
is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.
She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth,
diligent in homemaking.
She’s quick to assist anyone in need,
reaches out to help the poor.
She doesn’t worry about her family when it snows;
their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear.
She makes her own clothing,
and dresses in colorful linens and silks.”

Excerpt from Proverbs 31, The Message Version
source: https://www.biblegateway.com

Meet Seanti

When I met Seanti I asked myself, “How can one woman, get so much done before 8 am?" Maybe it has something to do with the sun rising at 4:30 am in our part of Northeast India.

By 5 am the kitchen fire is lit and the cooking for breakfast and lunch begins. Other tasks, like feeding the chickens, pigs, and gathering eggs, fetching water, packing the lunch tiffin for her children and husband are a daily routine.

"She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast
for her family and organizing her day."

Interviewing Kong Seinthi a silkworm rearerKong Seanti and her friend talk with the Muezart team about her silkworm rearing business.

Since Muezart is buying Eri silk cocoons from Seanti we wanted to visit with her at her home and learn about her rearing process. We had questions like: How many kilograms of cocoon could we expect to buy from her. Would she be able to supply us with cocoons year-round? What difficulties does she face? As we sat on her front porch the Muezart team learned much more about her. We discovered her varied home-making activities.

"First thing in the morning, she dresses for work,
rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started."

Seanti is a Doula, a woman who provides guidance and support to the mother of a newborn. In Khasi culture, they give a title to such a woman as: Asha. She ensures that the immunization awareness is done and follows up to see that both mother and baby are in good health.

She’s quick to assist anyone in need,
reaches out to help the poor.

Her house is surrounded by a small plot of land. While it may look a bit chaotic, it is a gardener’s paradise. As we walked through her yard we could see flowers, herbs, and vegetables. Large trees and small trees lush with vegetation and fruit. I would describe her yard as a wild-looking experimental garden. Beyond her home garden, she also has a field where she and her husband grow and harvest ginger and rice. 


pineapple growing in Sientie's gardencinnomon growing in Kong Seinties garden - Muezart

Kong Seanti has pineapple growing in her garden. She was drying rows of cinnamon that her husband had collected in the forest.


She looks over a field and buys it,
then, with money she’s put aside, plants a garden.

At the side of her home was a small shed. This is where the silkworms are kept while raising them. She has ample room. The secret to rearing large fluffy and clean cocoons is all about constantly feeding the worms tapioca and castor leaves. The best food to produce large caterpillars. Seanti plucks the leaves from her garden 4 times per day during rearing season. Toward the end of the rearing cycle she uses the banana leaves from her garden to create the space for the caterpillars to knit their cocoons.

Kong Sienties kitchen
Badshai, Muezart team member, standing with Kong Seanti in her kitchen. 

Seanti is diligent with her homemaking business. She must check on the worms throughout the day. Protect them from ants and predators like lizards. She uses mosquito nets to cover the baskets to keep the lizards away. She and her 2 daughters, ages 16 and 19 also help with this home business. It is a family affair. Raising the worms provides a supplemental income 3 to 4 times out of the year.

She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth,
diligent in homemaking.

Before Seanti started selling her cocoons to Muezart, she would hand process cocoons and sell to her village friends who wanted to spin the fiber for their own weaving orders. She also knows how to spin and sells her hand spun Eri silk yarn to weavers in the village when they have a local order for an Eri silk shawl.

She is skilled in spinning Eri silk yarn
She shops around for the best yarns and cottons, and enjoys knitting and sewing.

Molina a Spinner with Ambition

We left Seanti's home and returned to Kong Tmung’s house where about 15 spinners were gathered for the Worldwide Spin in Public Day. There was one Khasi lady who was intent on asking me and Khraw to take a look at the quality of her hand spun yarn. Khraw had placed a 2 kilogram order with her requesting her to spin a fingering weight Eri silk yarn.

Kong Molina is an expert spinner making a business by selling handspun fingering yarn Eri Silk for MuezartMolina is an expert spinning Eri silk to make a fingering weight yarn for Muezart.

Her Name is Molina Malai she is 35 years old. Apart from being a housewife and raising her children she also does farming of ginger. She's rearing Eri worms, spinning Eri silk, and weaving with a floor loom any time she receives an order from her village contacts.

Like Seanti, Molina is an Asha. She is part of a group of women who are taking care of the health of the infants and pregnant women of the village.

With her busy schedule, Khraw and I asked her, “What motivates you to
to want to become an expert at spinning the fingering weight yarn?” She replied, “Ever since I connected with Khraw and Muezart I want to rear more cocoons so that I can spin more yarn. This new yarn is different for me. I have never seen it. I want to be an expert in spinning this thicker handspun yarn. There must be a market for this type of yarn because you are buying it from me.”

To Hungry to Pass Up an Opportunity

She sees a business opportunity and doesn’t want to miss it. She is happy to develop the skill to spin a weight she has never used before. All of the local weavers spin a very fine lace weight yarn for weaving. She knows there is a market for this new “fingering weight” yarn because Muezart is giving her orders. She is spinning yarn for Muezart 4 hours per day. Two hours in the morning before and after cooking and two hours in the evening after cooking.

Eri silkworm rearing for Muezart
Molina is also a silkworm rearer. Eri silkworms munching on fresh tapioca leaves
collected from her yard and the nearby forest.

Her newfound connection to Muezart helps her family. She is rearing silkworms 4 times in a year. For one batch she is getting 7 - 8 kilograms of cocoon. This is a good supplemental income. The spinning creates an opportunity for her to be an expert in spinning a new yarn. The additional income supports her family. There are six family members. Her husband, Krisphin Maiong, he is 35 years old and he is a laborer. They have four children, three girls, and one boy. Their names are Ibadarishisha Malai, she is 13 years old she is in class 8, she's helping her mother in weaving and spinning. Rihun Malai, she is 12, and in class 6. Iba and Rihun both help in spinning and weaving. Ruptalin Malai is 10 years old. Mximilan Malai is her 7-year-old son. You might notice that her children have a different last name than their father. That is another story waiting to be told.


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