Change is Beautiful!

Settling in to our NEW storefront studio space in bustling Rogers Park, we here at Loom Chicago are feeling entirely optimistic about what is coming next!

With new products, new space, new organization, and the introduction of Clearance and Feature Items, there will soon and continue to be lots of positive change to our brand and our website that ultimately benefits you, our Customer, and the refugee artisans of Loom.

With Loom Coordinator Rebecca’s passion for arts education and outreach and Assistant Coordinator Rachel’s organizational skills and go-getterness, we think we’ve got a pretty good thing going. Please be sure to keep in touch through Facebook and Instagram, come by and say hello at one of the many events we have coming up or pop by the studio space near Clark and Devon!

In The Studio: Natural Dyeing Silk Scarves

We had the joy of welcoming two local Chicago artists to the Loom studio this month to teach us how to naturally dye silk scarves.

We used natural dyes and 100% silk scarves during the process and tied them up to make beautiful designs on the scarves.

Over the course of three workshops, we used a grey/silver dye, a pinkish maroon dye, a purple dye and a yellow. They produced some beautiful colors for the Spring and Summer!


To tie them up we used clothes pins, rubber pants thick and thin, paper clips, wooden blocks, wooden cutouts, mason jars, Popsicle sticks and anything else we could find. Someone even tried wrapping up pencils in their scarves!

We laughed a lot watching each other tie up our scarves in curious ways. It was a show of creativity itself to see the strange ideas we would come up with!


After our first batch of scarves were tied up, we prepared the dye bath. Hot water was ready for the natural dye. The women added the powder and stirred it together. When the powder had fully dissolved, we added all our silk bundles into the pots and submerged them fully.


The women stirred the bundles of silk in the pots as we waited for the dye to set in. Some women continued their knitting projects, and others began tying up more silk scarves to put in the dye bath.

We waited anywhere between 30 and 60 minutes for the color to really soak in.

When the time was up, we took turns scooping our silk scarves out of the pot and washed off the lingering dye.


We took our own silk scarves out of the water and began to undo the rubber bands from the balled up scarves.

Laughter and joy ensued after each unveiling. With each scarf, new, creative lines appeared among the bright dyed coloring. We displayed each scarf for everyone to see and marvel at before hanging them up to dry.


Each of the scarves have a little bit different shade of the dye color they were in. Some of the maroons were dark, some were closer to a light rose color. Some of the yellows were deep and bright, while others were light and airy. The shade all depended on the amount of time in the pot and how the scarves were tied up.

Each scarf turned out so unique! The designs are beautiful displays of the creative experiments we set out to make. It’s hard to imagine anyone wearing one of these scarves and not getting a compliment on it this summer!

We had so much fun with this workshop! Our silk scarves will be on sale at the upcoming pop up events this season. Hop on our email list to know just where you can purchase these gorgeous silk scarves!


In The Studio: Bead Earrings


The artisans of Loom have been working hard on jewelry for the Spring and Summer seasons. We have been creating an array of earrings. Crochet earrings and leather earrings are some of our unique projects, but our ladies have been most interested in creating bead earrings.

The artisans are drawn towards the creative endeavor of playing with colors, wires and lengths.

The colors we have been putting together are light and fun - a reminder of warming up and stepping back out after a long winter.

All of the Spring and Summer earring designs were thought of and creatively made by each woman. Each week at Loom, the ladies will bring in new creations they dreamed up and made at home or at Loom.

As they continue to create, their personal styles are developed and become more clear. Their personalities show through each of their designs and are only stronger when put together.


Most of the Loom Spring Summer line earrings will be available for sale at our in person sales events.

For a first look at everywhere we will be this year for sale, sign up to our email list. We will send out a monthly newsletter with updates on how you can be a part of our community.

Artisan Spotlight: How Did You Learn To Knit?

We asked the ladies of Loom how they learned to knit, crochet and create. Here’s what they said:

“From Loom”

“We learn from each other”

“In my country”

“I learned it by my own practice. I was so much interested to learn it since my childhood”

“ I learned to do that from my country. The different organizations gave me training to do that.”

“From my country”

“From my mom <3”

Now it’s your turn! Do you create? How did you learn? Let us know in the comments below!

A History of Loom: Part 2

Last week we learned about the beginnings of Loom 6 years ago. Women gathered together to support one another with their stories and presence, and turned to using their creative skills.


As Loom became centered around creating products, women applied their skills. Weaving, knitting, crocheting, fabric dyeing, jewelry making and much more. Today, the ladies of Loom come to the studio twice a week and create together. Many don’t speak the same language, yet through the connection of creativity they teach each other new skills.

Here are some things the ladies of Loom had to say:

“I like Loom because I like to learn new skills and designs.” -Bishnu from Bhutan

“I love everything about Loom. Drawing and embroidery, making new things, everything is good! I like trying new things.” -Dil from Bhutan

”It’s the place where I feel relaxed by meeting my friends and classmates at Loom.” -Saleemah from Iraq

Over the years, women have come and gone. New women move to Chicago and find Loom, and some seasoned Loom participants find jobs or relocate with their families. What has stayed constant within our group is the understanding that ‘together’ matters. Using our gifts to create products that light up our hearts and bring home income, it matters.

At Loom, we are proud to be woven together.

A History of Loom: Part 1

Loom is a social enterprise offering Refugee women who live in Chicago the chance to use their skills, build a community and receive an income.

Over 6 years ago, Loom began as a simple idea and has grown into a community of women who love to be together. When the director of Refugee Resettlement and the Community Outreach professional at the time noticed a problem, the gears started turning. While families began to resettle in the US, finding homes and jobs, often times the women in these families would stay home while their husbands worked and children went to school. With their day wide open, these women would begin to feel isolated.  To offer some community, our director decided to bring these ladies in similar situations together.

Thus, the first Loom meeting began as a support group.

In a basement on Granville Ave in 2012, the women met together and worked on the craft skills they knew. Many of the women who came in these first few weeks were from Nepal and brought with them beautiful skills in weaving. Week after week, the ladies would come together to weave and knit and laugh.

Due to its roots in weaving, and the chance for these beautiful ladies to grow into a supportive community, the group was called Loom.

We are woven together!

Stay tuned for Part 2, coming next week!


Loom's Cookbook Recipe 1 - Bishnu's Sel Roti from Bhutan

The Bhutanese refugees that we have today in countries like the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and around Europe, all come from a specific ethnic group called Lhotshampas. The Lhotshampas are the “southern Bhutanese” who are the Nepali-speaking Bhutanese. They used to be one of the three main ethnic groups of Bhutan, they made up between a third to half of the entire population of the country prior to the ethnic cleanse that took place in the early 1990’s.

Over 100,000 Southern Bhutanese have lived or still remain in refugee camps in Eastern Nepal, they have spent between 15 to 20 years there before resettlement to other countries began in 2008.

But why did the Nepali-speaking Bhutanese find themselves in the need to flee and seek asylum elsewhere? Here is a little bit about the history of these Nepali/Bhutani ethnic group and their confrontation against their dual identity:

In the late 19th century Bhutan began a campaign to inhabit and cultivate the southern area of their kingdom, which was mostly empty and ready to be worked, so they contracted Nepali-speaking peoples from their surrounding borders to come, live and work the land. Very quickly, the south became one of the main suppliers of food in the country and prospered greatly with at east 60,000 people living there who could trace their lineage to those newcomers that had moved two to three generations prior. Because of this prosperity, the rest of the Bhutanese kingdom began to see them as a political threat and in 1985 a new citizenship act passed that required Lhotshampas to produce documentary evidence of legal residence. A strong nationalistic feeling was rising throughout the kingdom and the need of exclusion of those non-native Bhutanese, called “anti-nationals” became apparent when in 1989 the population was obligated to wear only traditional northern clothing and Nepali language was removed from the schools’ curriculums. The Southern Bhutanese were systematically excluded from the population and facing primitive imprisonment and even torture, their citizenships were being removed making them nationless and therefore taking away their lands in order to give them to northern Bhutanese.

In 1991 the first refugees fled to neighboring India but were not allowed to stay there so they moved to eastern Nepal where the UNHCR set up seven official refugee camps. The population in the camps kept on growing as children were being born there plus later arrivals of Nepali-speaking Bhutanese. As Lhotshampas were not considered citizens of neither Bhutan nor Nepal, they became nationless, and in 2008 they began to be accepted by third countries to be resettled. The US was the country that took-in the majority of them (about 85%) between the years of 2008 to 2015.

 *For more information go to


In the past, Bishnu has brought Sel Roti to the Loom Studio to share, and when I asked what recipe she wanted to tell me about for the cookbook, she chose this one. Her selection highlighted a deeper metaphorical meaning, since Sel Roti can be found throughout the geographical region of Bhutan, West Bengal and Nepal, rendering this food borderless.

Sel Roti is a fried sweet. This is the way that Bishnu makes it:




2.5 cups of rice flour

.5 cups of wheat flour

1 tsp of baking powder

3 tbsp of cane sugar

enough water to make a pancake consistency liquid

3 tbsp of Ghee (or butter)

frying oil


Mix the rice and wheat flour with the baking powder, sugar and ghee with enough water to make a liquid in similar consistency that when making pancake batter (this is how Bishnu explained).

Pour frying oil into pan and heat for deep-frying. When the oil is ready, submerge the ladle in the batter and lift above oil, letting the batter fall into the oil while making a circular shape. Let fry until brown and repeat until you run out of batter.



Sharing Food and Art to Build Community

Food accompanies people as much as history, tradition or language; it is a powerful force that brings people together and can stir up strong nostalgia or remind us of comforts of the past, like memories of being cared for by our parents. The smell of food can trigger all-encompassing recollections that bathe us in an aura of its mystique and in an instant our entire being can be transferred into the space of that memory. When a person finds itself transposed and uprooted, two main things they will bring with them wherever they go: language and food.

At Loom we have such a variety of nationalities, ethnicities, languages and cultures. In terms of origins, what everybody has in common here is their uprootedness, the fact that everyone comes from somewhere else. Loom, being a sanctuary, has organically become a food-sharing and eating-place. What can make a space feel more like a home than having a collection of dishes on the center table, and enjoy each others cooking while conversing and making art together? Every week at least one person (if not more) feels compelled to cook a dish to bring and share at our studio. These are always typical dishes from the individual’s home country, and the desire to let everybody know the name of this dish, or how it was made illustrates the pride and the love (and partly the heartache) with their roots.

This is how the idea of collecting the best of recipes and writing a Loom cookbook was born. I am going to kick-start this series of posts with our first recipe, Bishnu’s Sel Roti from Bhutan, which will be posted next week so stay tuned! Each recipe will be introduced with a little bit of history about the dispersion or creation of refugees from the highlighted country.

In the blog version of these posts, this is as far as it’s going to go: little bit of introductory history and recipe, but does this seem like not enough? Here is the cherry on top: after posting enough recipes, the articles that you’ll read here and the recipes that you will find in our blog, will actually be printed in a hard copy real book that will have illustrations for you to color in! Can there be any more self-care action that cooking and coloring?! Yes there can… but this is a great start! Everybody has different levels of trauma in their life, and anyway, trauma or not, we all deserve, and in fact REQUIRE self-care, so cook yourself a nourishing meal, and immerse yourself in a creative activity that serves no other purpose than to relax.

Neta Levinson, Loom Coordinator

cookbook logo color.jpg

Reflecting on Winter, Welcoming a New, Beautiful Spring!

In the midst of our cold Chicago winter, this year began in a state of confusion and fear for the refugee community in our country and around the world. Throughout these policy changes, and through all our days, Catholic Charities and Loom Chicago stand with refugees and have remained committed and will continue to remain committed to welcoming and supporting our neighbors in need. And through cloud of confusion, setbacks, and debates, one thing remained clear: the strength of our supporters. 

Friends and volunteers from past and present shared their memories of working with the wonderful women of Loom. Supporters signed petitions and sent messages to government officials to let them know they stand with refugees, too. We received generous donations and kind words, and for all of this we are grateful and encouraged as we move into this next beautiful season.

Spring is all about growth, warmth, and opening up. Whether you celebrate spring by getting outside, trying new things, or seeking a fresh start, we hope you enjoy the season. 

Shop our spring-ready  crochet earrings  and  silk scarves.

Shop our spring-ready crochet earrings and silk scarves.

Meet Neta: Loom's New Coordinator!

Loom is happy to welcome a new coordinator, Neta! Get to know her and her passion for art and empowerment:

What drew you to Loom?

Neta: Everything; Loom is a group of Refugee Women Artisans. The three words, each on their own mean so much to me, finding these three words grouped together, I felt like it was tailored to me. Women: I am not necessarily a feminist in the old meaning of the word, but I consider myself a fighter for women's power and independence. Refugee: I am not one, but I am a foreigner, I was born in one side of the world, grew up in the opposite corner, and now live yet in a third contrasting country, cultural and traditional identity is a question with ongoing answers always present in my thoughts. Artisans: Having lived all my life in big-fast pace-consumerist metropolis, I have always had a fascination with nature, old traditions and hand-made things. I am shocked every time I think about how we wouldn't survive without the "necessity" to buy (cheap) from big corporations like Ikea and Target. In my life and home I try to create (or exchange with other makers) as many things as I can, myself being a ceramist I can cover much of kitchenware, and love of knitting and sewing, I make our blankets and pillows, socks, scarves and hats, and my husband being a woodworker and electrician he builds and lights the whole house. To me, this is part of what it means to be an artisan, to make, love, and give meaning to every object you have.

Neta at the Allure Fashion Show.

Neta at the Allure Fashion Show.

Are you personally into art or crafting? If so, what are your favorite things to make?

Neta: I come from a family of artists and writers, and to my own surprise, after some wandering in college I ended up receiving a BFA that I concentrated in Ceramics and a BA in Visual and Critical Studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. As I said before, my love for art is not what we find today in contemporary galleries, but the passion and creation of the objects that surround us every day, and if on top of beautiful they can be useful, even better. My work spans from painting (mostly watercolors) and drawing, ceramics, which includes sculptures, cups, teapots, pizza stones, incense holders, planters, mosaics, home-heaters with candles, among others, dabble with knitting and sewing, and woodwork.

What is your favorite Loom product?

Neta: All the products created in Loom are incredibly beautiful, but I must say that what left me without words were the crochet baby dresses; the level of detail and cuteness to them is too much!

What's your favorite part about the role so far?

Neta: My favorite part about my role, first of all is that I get to work with: Women/Refugees/Artisans! But in terms of the work is probably the fact that it truly is a creative challenge, and I like challenges. All the way from talking with the maker about each individual product as it is in progress, to come up with new and exciting projects, and to keep on pushing Loom forward, make ourselves known and our mission.

Outside of Loom, what do you like to do for fun?

Neta: Obviously I love love painting, drawing and working with clay on the wheel, but besides art, I love long long hikes in nature, camping, backpacking, traveling, bungee jumping, and cooking from scratch.


Allure Fashion Show

When you think fashion show, you might think flashing lights, glamour, and sequins. The Allure Fashion show had all that, but it also had a mission. On Thursday, January 19th, Loom got to participate in the Allure Fashion Show in Chicago alongside some other great fashion and fair trade brands, all to raise awareness for human trafficking and money for the local organization Traffick Free.

All photos courtesy of Flint Chaney. Look by  Mata Traders .

All photos courtesy of Flint Chaney. Look by Mata Traders.

Look by  Joriki .

Look by Joriki.

Look by  Akira .

Look by Akira.

In the Chicagoland area, Traffick Free works to combat human trafficking and help provide resources for survivors. They work with other organizations like residential facilities and case-management agencies to meet emergency needs of sex and labor trafficking survivors, as well as schools, NGOs, and law enforcement to conduct important training.

Salisia and the models.

Salisia and the models.

The full audience. Proceeds from tickets benefited Traffick Free.&nbsp;

The full audience. Proceeds from tickets benefited Traffick Free. 

The show was put on by Salisia Webber: fashion consultant, writer, and active volunteer. Looks were featured from big stores, like Akira and The Frock Shop, and local designers, like Merit Clothiers. There were also great fashions from do-good brands like fair trade companies Mata Traders and Zuri Collection, as well as brands that donate to impoverished women or people in crisis, like Marsymo and Joriki. An often forgotten part of human trafficking is labor trafficking. A representative from Traffick Free spoke to the crowd about how maybe instead of wondering why clothing items are so expensive at the store, we should be asking why they're so cheap. How much could the people who made those cheap clothes possibly have been paid? Shopping fair trade is a great way to use fashion to fight for fair wages.

The Loom setup in the fair trade shopping room at the show. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to shop and chat about our mission!

The Loom setup in the fair trade shopping room at the show. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to shop and chat about our mission!

We got to share Loom's message at the end of the show and showcase some of our items for sale alongside other fair trade brands Re:new Project and Kathmandu Yogi. The night was full of excitement as all of the hard work of Salisia and the models came together for a beautiful show. But it was also eye-opening. From the audience, we saw the power our talents have to help those who need it most. 

Artisan Photoshoot

You've seen our artisans at work on a bunch of new painted silk scarves. Recently our friend Jamie from Catholic Charities came to take photos of some of our new products. We had some fun and laughs as our artisans stepped in front of the camera and showed off their beautiful works of art. Here are our latest silk scarves, modeled by the women who made them:


Painted &amp; modeled by Bishnu from Bhutan. Tassels assembled by Saleemah from Iraq.&nbsp;

Painted & modeled by Bishnu from Bhutan. Tassels assembled by Saleemah from Iraq. 

Painted by Batool from Iraq. Tassels made by Saleemah from Iraq. Modeled by Saleemah.

Painted by Batool from Iraq. Tassels made by Saleemah from Iraq. Modeled by Saleemah.

Painted and modeled by Boj Joshi from Bhutan. Tassels assembled by Mariam from Malaysia.&nbsp;

Painted and modeled by Boj Joshi from Bhutan. Tassels assembled by Mariam from Malaysia. 

Painted, assembled, and modeled by Hlaiwah from Iraq.&nbsp;

Painted, assembled, and modeled by Hlaiwah from Iraq. 

You can purchase all these scarves and more in our online shop.

All photos courtesy of Jamie Lynn Ferguson. 

Knitwear Preview

Crisp air, crunchy leaves, and pumpkin spiced everything—fall is in full swing! Our artisans have been preparing for the season for a while, knitting lots of fun, new products that are coming soon to our online store. 

We started talking about new knitting designs for this season a few workshops ago. Our skilled artisans determine what type of yarn is best and how much it takes to make each design.

Saleemah and Boj Josi during planning.

Saleemah and Boj Josi during planning.

The artisans spend some time knitting together in person, but also bring yarn home to work on projects on their own throughout the week. 

Saleemah sharing her knitting expertise with new artisans from Malaysia.&nbsp;

Saleemah sharing her knitting expertise with new artisans from Malaysia. 

A bit of modeling in the workshop!

A bit of modeling in the workshop!

We currently have some of last year's knitwear on sale, so check them out and be on the lookout for lots of new stuff coming very soon!

Fixed Abode

Everybody has to live somewhere. This was the central message of Fixed Abode, the variety show organized and hosted by Tyler Thompson. On the evening of September 12, Loom, along with a full crowd at Uptown Underground, experienced a beautiful evening of music, poetry, and comedy centered around the theme of homes, dwellings, and the endless journey of finding a place to call home.

All photos courtesy of Jill Fager.

All photos courtesy of Jill Fager.

Local performers including She's Folks, Babe-Alon 5, Trevor Reusch, Christina Hall & Diego Colon, Daniel Fager, Hillary Maren & Khaki Pixley, Quentin Rynbrandt, Hannah Veldt, and more came to share their stories and talent. Among this lineup were Jeff Award Nominees, a playwright, a screenwriter, an electrician, and a U.S. veteran (who is also a great tomato farmer and happens to be Tyler's grandfather!). There were songs about love and travel (and occasionally vegetables), poems about family and growing up, and jokes about apartment hunting. It showed that we all have different experiences when it comes to "home." 

It was also night for us all to reflect on the experiences of refugees, who experience such a drastic displacement from their homes. All the proceeds from ticket sales from the event were donated to Loom to help us continue our mission of helping the refugee women in our community rebuild their lives. In the midst of a larger global refugee crisis, Tyler talked about how it's great to be able to do our part to help the refugees right here in our community. We are so thankful to everyone who attended and stopped by our booth and to the Fixed Abode artists who used their talents to support our artisans! To quote a Chinese proverb we learned from Tyler, "It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." 

How We Made It: Silk Scarves

What have the Loom artisans been up to lately? More silk scarves! But this time around, we've revamped them a bit with bigger, square scarves and extra details added. Now we're showing you how we made them, from start to finish over the course of our past few workshops:

"Do I look like a movie star?" - Batool in front of the camera

"Do I look like a movie star?" - Batool in front of the camera

We start with plain, white silk scarves and soak them in a water mixed with a special fabric detergent to help set the dyes. The next step is to shake them out and lay them flat on the covered table, still damp. Then it's time for the fun part!

Batool and Saleemah getting started

Batool and Saleemah getting started

Artisans choose whatever colored silk dyes they want and begin painting. Some like to splatter different colors, some paint wavy designs, and some build up different colored dots. The result is scarves in all different styles and colors, from the cool and bright to the warm and subtle. No matter what, you can be sure that each piece is a unique work of art straight from the artisan's creativity. 

Boj Josi, Batool, and Hlaiwah working on their creations

Boj Josi, Batool, and Hlaiwah working on their creations

The painted scarves take some time to dry, and then at the next workshop they are washed again in the detergent to make sure the dye fully sets. 

With this collection of scarves, we've added fun tassels to the corners in complimentary colors for some extra flair.

Hlaiwah sewing tassels on

Hlaiwah sewing tassels on

Then it's time for the finishing touches: each scarf is ironed and a tag is added with the name of the artisan who hand painted it and where she is from.

We boxed up the final products and will be bringing them all to Fixed Abode, the variety show in honor of refugees on Monday, September 12th at 7:30pm. The show will feature local Chicago performers of music, comedy, and poetry and it's sure to be a great time! Tickets are $12 each, available now, and proceeds will benefit Loom. In addition to this collection of colorful scarves, we'll have some of our other products for sale at the event available for purchase. 

One Scarf: Three Ways

With August coming to an end, it's time to make the most of our final opportunities for warm weather and summer style. The Loom artisans have been working on more hand-painted silk scarves at our recent workshops. With bright, gorgeous colors and breezy fabric, they are the perfect transitional wardrobe pieces for all the in-between weather as we enter the fall, so this week we're showing you how to wear one for any occasion:

1. At the Office

When the temps are still high and the office can be a little stuffy, a silk scarf is a great way to accessorize without getting too warm. Let the colors of the scarf steal the show and go with a neutral blouse and flowy skirt. Add a sleek pair of loafers for an overall look that is timeless but still one-of-a-kind.

Shoes:  Everlane  / Top:  H&amp;M Conscious  / Briefcase:  Matt &amp; Nat  / Skirt:  People Tree

Shoes: Everlane / Top: H&M Conscious / Briefcase: Matt & Nat / Skirt: People Tree

2. On the Weekend

Whether you're hitting up the last of the season's outdoor festivals, meeting friends for weekly brunch, or just strolling around on a nice day, go with a simple, breezy dress and flat sandals that can easily work dressed up or down. Let the scarf be your pop of color and accessorize with a pair of our hand-crocheted earrings. Add a fun, summery tote and you're ready for anything the weekend has to offer!

Shoes:  Sseko Designs  / Dress:  Raven + Lily &nbsp;/ Earrings:  Loom  / Bag:  The Little Market

Shoes: Sseko Designs / Dress: Raven + Lily / Earrings: Loom / Bag: The Little Market

3. For a Night Out

Big night coming up? Wrap a silk scarf around your shoulders when the sun goes down and the temps drop a bit lower. Consider renting a dress if you want to try out a fun, new trend without the monetary risk and environmental waste! Finish the look with sleek, classic accessories. 

You can shop more of our hand-painted and hand-dyed, 100 percent silk scarves here.