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 http://bhutaneserefugees.com/


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. 

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

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. 

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

  Painted, assembled, and modeled by Hlaiwah from Iraq. 

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. 

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&M Conscious  / Briefcase:  Matt & 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  / 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.

Professionals in Ethical Fashion: Interview with Maggie Brown

Maggie Brown, a former volunteer for Loom, continues to work in the ethical fashion industry at Soko, an ethical jewelry brand. Soko works with marginalized artisan entrepreneurs to connect them with consumers through mobile phones, helping them build their businesses and create sustainable income. We got to hear from Maggie on what it's like to work in ethical fashion and where she see's the industry going from here.

Loom: Can you tell us a little bit about what you do for Soko?
I work as Soko's Account Manager. I manage the majority of our existing wholesale accounts, as well as working toward growing our wholesale partnerships through trade shows and outreach. 

Loom: How closely do you (or does your company) work with the artisans that make your jewelry?
Unfortunately, I do not get to work with our artisans personally, since I work on the US sales side of things. Our company as a whole, however, has an extremely integrated model of operation. We have about 30 full time staff (mostly Kenyan), who work out of our main offices in Nairobi, Kenya. Soko has 3 female cofounders, 2 of which live full time in Kenya. By operating all of our production, operations, and fulfillment directly out of Nairobi, Soko is able to invest in the artisan community in an integrated and wholistic way.

Loom: What do you think is different about working for a brand like Soko than for a typical fast fashion company?
There are a lot of differences, but the most important one is that Soko strives to create an environment in which the fashion world can work for the poor and the environment rather than against it. Our founders say that in order for things to be beautiful the systems that create them must also be beautiful. Soko works toward transparency, sustainability and ethical production in every aspect. This means that not only are the materials sustainable and ethically sourced, but the artisans producing the jewelry are retaining 30-35% of the revenue.

Loom: What is your biggest challenge in promoting ethical fashion today?
We live in a culture that unfortunately promotes instant gratification. What that means for us as consumers, is that we often don't pause to consider the consequences of our purchasing decisions. The biggest challenge is in getting consumers and industry brands alike to transform the culture by considering the cost of fast fashion as compared to the positive impact of ethically-produced fashion can have on our environment and communities.

  Maggie during her time with Loom.

Maggie during her time with Loom.

Loom: What is your favorite part about working in ethical fashion?
It combines so many things I love. I love fashion and design, but I've always wanted to work in a field that has meaningful impact in people's lives. I love the work I do because I get to see the intersection of all of those things every day. 

Loom: What made you want to go into this industry?
Actually I think my 2 years with Loom led me to Soko. I have always loved fashion, but never considered pursuing a career in it. During my time with Loom I had the opportunity to witness the ways in which our purchases can make a difference in someone's life in very tangible ways. For some of the women at Loom, the paychecks they receive is the difference between paying their rent that month. The privilege of my experience with the women at Loom made me want to continue to be part of a company that was working toward positive change in people's lives. 

Loom: How do you see the ethical fashion industry evolving in the near future?
This is an exciting time in the ethical fashion industry. There are so many more brands offering transparency and ethical production than there were 10 or 15 years ago. I think the biggest evolution that is happening right now and will continue to happen is that consumers don't have to compromise affordability or trend-driven for ethically-made. Ethical brands like Soko offer fashion-forward products at accessible prices. I believe this evolution will eventually lead to a fashion industry in which ethical production and transparency is seamlessly integrated, rather than a separate subsection of fashion.


Inspired by traditional tribal designs and utilizing sustainable materials, Soko's jewelry is still minimalist and modern. Check out some of our top picks:

 Double Bar Cuff, $74   Photo via shopsoko.com

Double Bar Cuff, $74

Photo via shopsoko.com

 Bow Earrings, $48   Photo via shopsoko.com

Bow Earrings, $48

Photo via shopsoko.com

 Delicate Chain Choker, $95   Photo via shopsoko.com

Delicate Chain Choker, $95

Photo via shopsoko.com

Find more at shopsoko.com

Ethical Shopping in Chicago

We love our fellow mission-driven brands, and we especially love entire stores filled with their products. It's wonderful when you can walk into a store and have confidence as you browse that whatever you choose, you are making a conscious, positive impact as a consumer.

1. Greenheart Shop

1714 N Wells St, Chicago

  Photo courtesy of  Greenheart Shop .

Photo courtesy of Greenheart Shop.

Based in Chicago's Old Town neighborhood, Greenheart is a non-profit, fair trade store with a wide range of products from home goods to baby toys to clothing and accessories (they carry some of Loom's knitwear!). All of their products are either fair trade, environmentally friendly, or have a social mission, so you can be sure that anything you purchase has been made consciously of people and the environment! You can also shop their goods in their online shop.

2. Planet Access

4727 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago

  Photo courtesy of  Planet Access .

Photo courtesy of Planet Access.

Planet Access is a high-end retail store that carries brands focused on sustainable and socially responsible clothing and accessories. What's also great about them is that all purchases made in the store support Search, Inc., which is a non-profit that encourages adults with intellectual disabilities to reach their full potential. Planet Access Company helps provide employment opportunities for these individuals, so your purchase in their store is both sustainable and charitable.

3. Ten Thousand Villages

719 Main St, Evanston

  Photo courtesy of  Ten Thousand Villages.

Photo courtesy of Ten Thousand Villages.

Ten Thousand Villages is one of the largest and oldest fair trade retailers, with hundreds of locations across the U.S. Their mission is to help support a livelihood for artisans in the developing world through fair wages and your purchase in their Evanston location will help them do that! They also carry a wide variety of gifts, home decor, and apparel. If you're looking for some ethically made treats, they also sell fair trade coffee and chocolate!

4. Wolfbait & B-Girls

3131 W. Logan Blvd, Chicago

  Photo courtesy of Wolfbait & B-Girls.

Photo courtesy of Wolfbait & B-Girls.

Wolfbait & B-Girls carries the products of over 170 local artists as well as Chicago-based fair trade companies. They call themselves a "one-stop shop" for both practical clothing and one-of-a-kind treasures and playful accessories. They're passionate about doing good in all aspects of their shop: most of their store displays are made from up-cycled items and they frequently donate to local charities. You can be sure your shopping experience here will be both unique and ethical!

5. Local Goods Chicago

5422 W. Devon Ave, Chicago & 6443 N. Sheridan Rd, Chicago

  Photo courtesy of  Local Goods Chicago .

Photo courtesy of Local Goods Chicago.

Shopping local is a great way to ensure ethics and transparency in the products you buy. Local Goods Chicago has two locations and an online shop full of handcrafted, locally made gifts from a variety of local designers and makers. They carry home goods, clothing and accessories, paper products, bath and body products, and plenty of souvenirs donned with the Chicago flag!

Our Favorite Ethical Summer Products

The temps are still high and the nights are still longsummer is here to say for at least a little while longer! We love supporting our fellow mission-driven brands, so here are some of Loom's favorite pieces for keeping fun, stylish, and environmentally and socially conscious this season.

1. Romper by Threads 4 Thought

  Photo courtesy of  Threads 4 Thought .

Photo courtesy of Threads 4 Thought.

  Photo courtesy of  Sseko Designs .

Photo courtesy of Sseko Designs.

Made from recycled polyester-organic cotton, this romper is the perfect instant-outfit for summer! What began as an eco-friendly t-shirt company has grown into a full-on fashion brand. Threads 4 Thought is committed to socially responsible manufacturing practices and sustainable materials, all with the hope of changing the damaging "fast fashion" industry. 








Based in Uganda, Sseko began as a way to help young women earn an income to attend university and achieve their dreams. Now they also work with artisans in East Africa at all different points in their lives to help them reach beyond poverty.  In addition to handcrafted shoes like these fun flats, they also make charm bracelets and leather bags. 

  Photo courtesy of  Greenheart Shop , where our fellow Chicagoans can also pick these up.

Photo courtesy of Greenheart Shop, where our fellow Chicagoans can also pick these up.



JOYN products are made by artisans in Rajpur, India. JOYN provides their employees not just with vocational training but also with medial resources and meal plans. Their bags are completely handmade, from spinning the raw cotton, to block printing the colorful designs (this clutch was worked on by twelve different artisans!). 



Summer is also the perfect time to have some fun with color! Try a bright statement necklace (this one also comes in lavender and navy). Mata Traders is a fellow Chicago-based brand. With bright and colorful clothing and accessories made fairly by artisans in India and Nepal, they aim to put and end to poverty and improve the fashion industry.

  Photo courtesy of  WEWOOD .

Photo courtesy of WEWOOD.

No summer outfit is complete without sunglasses! WEWOOD makes theirs with natural cotton fiber to reduce plastic waste and help preserve the environment. Plus, for every pair sold they'll plant a tree to support reforestation!

Women in Media

What can a woman do with the power of her voice in the media? Loom participated in an event called “A Night for Women in Media” put on by liftUPlift, an organization dedicated to both providing a marketplace for women-owned businesses and working internationally to end violence against women. The event, which took place on June 29th at the Catalyst Ranch, was put on with the intention of connecting women in Chicago media so that they could share stories and talk about the challenges they face as well as the ways they can use their voices to positively impact the lives of women everywhere.

  Photo courtesy of  liftUPlift .

Photo courtesy of liftUPlift.

The event’s open discussion on the representation of women in the media was led by Kendra Chaplin, founder and owner of Chicago Woman magazine, Heidi Stevens, “Balancing Act” columnist for the Chicago Tribune, and Amanda Elliott, writer of the blog Windy City Cosmo. They spoke about some of the challenges they face in their professions, like judgmental criticism and a focus on body image over intelligence. What they agreed upon, though, was that the way to rise above the negativity is to acknowledge the value of what they have to say and to set a strong example for women everywhere.  

  Photo courtesy of  liftUPlift .

Photo courtesy of liftUPlift.

  Photo courtesy of  liftUPlift .

Photo courtesy of liftUPlift.

One way they can do this is by spreading positivity and awareness about the great accomplishments being made by and for women. Another part of the event was dedicated to female entrepreneurs in Chicago sharing these types of stories. Loom Coordinator Allie and Loom artisan Batool spoke at the event to share the story of how Loom empowers women in Chicago. Speaking alongside them were fellow female entrepreneurs, Emily Snider from Heshima Kenya, an organization that works to care for and protect refugee girls and young women in Kenya, and Karen Torres from Tulia’s, which provides a marketplace for indigenous tribes and traditional artisans from Columbia to sell their products. These organizations, like Loom, work to help empower women beyond their struggles. The stories of these women lifting each other up present a strong image of women and their power to make a positive change in the world.

 Event attendees, including Allie and Batool.  Photo courtesy of  liftUPlift .

Event attendees, including Allie and Batool. Photo courtesy of liftUPlift.

How We Made It: Jewelry Basics & Sun Transfers

Loom has been full of new projects lately! We have been lucky to have had Tania Rodamilans join us for some recent workshops. She is a jewelry designer and artist originally from Barcelona, Spain now living in Chicago. Her products are sold online on Etsy as well as in multiple stores in the Chicago area and in Michigan and Wisconsin. She shared her passion with the women of Loom, working with them on several projects and teaching them new skills. Her love for creativity was clear from the excitement she showed when teaching the artisans and from how she spoke about the potential for endless other projects. 

 Tania with  Batool .  Photo courtesy of Mike Handler.

Tania with BatoolPhoto courtesy of Mike Handler.

One very detailed and useful process the artisans learned was the basics of jewelry assembly. Each artisan used a set of different types of pliers brought by Tania. She showed them the best way to hold the tools and taught them the proper way to cut, bend, and wrap wire in order to assemble the different pieces of bracelets and necklaces, from beads, to chains, to clasps. While trying out making different pieces with different chains and stones, many of the same basic skills were used. 

  Photo courtesy of Mike Handler.

Photo courtesy of Mike Handler.

  Hlaiwah  learning to use the pliers.  Photo courtesy of Mike Handler. 

Hlaiwah learning to use the pliers. Photo courtesy of Mike Handler. 

  Photo courtesy of Mike Handler.

Photo courtesy of Mike Handler.

 Tania giving a demonstration.  Photo courtesy of Mike Handler.

Tania giving a demonstration. Photo courtesy of Mike Handler.

  Photo courtesy of Mike Handler.

Photo courtesy of Mike Handler.

 Some of the finished products. 

Some of the finished products. 

While it’s tough to learn such intricate new skills, the women laughed through the frustrating parts and rejoiced in their successes. They improved the more they practiced and ended up with some beautiful pieces.

  Saleemah  smiling as she works.  Photo courtesy of Mike Handler. 

Saleemah smiling as she works. Photo courtesy of Mike Handler. 

  Batool  taking pride in her accomplishment.  Photo courtesy of Mike Handler.

Batool taking pride in her accomplishment. Photo courtesy of Mike Handler.

Another new process the artisans got to try their hands at was making sun transfer prints on canvas. Using SolarFast dye, the artisans painted a base coat on the fabric. Then Tania helped them select objects to place on top that would create the print. They tried out different leaves and branches from outside as well as a few random plastic objects found inside. 

 Arranging leaves to create interesting patterns. 

Arranging leaves to create interesting patterns. 

 Boj Josi, Chandra Magar, and Mon Maya from Bhutan work on their projects.

Boj Josi, Chandra Magar, and Mon Maya from Bhutan work on their projects.

The artisans got creative as they arranged their items on the painted fabric. Then it was time to wait—the projects needed to be exposed to sunlight to take effect. Tania and the artisans took this time to enjoy some cake and a bit of singing and dancing. After exposure, when the objects were removed from the painted surface, their spaces appeared lighter and created images. 

 The projects soaking up the sun.

The projects soaking up the sun.

 The final effect of the solar dye.

The final effect of the solar dye.

Thanks to Tania, the Loom artisans got to learn some new fundamental skills and experiment creatively!

World Refugee Week

“Today, over 60 million people are living without a permanent home.” This was a striking quote on display at an exhibit called “Sanctuary & Sustenance: The Story of Many Journeys,” put on by ART WORKS Projects in honor of World Refugee Week, presented with the Center for Forced Migration Studies, Buffet Institute of Northwestern University. The exhibition is a multimedia display of photography, film, and music being shown in multiple cities across the U.S. and in Europe with the intention of showing audiences the long journey a refugee takes from displacement to settlement. 

  Photo courtesy of  Manifest Media .

Photo courtesy of Manifest Media.

Alongside each exhibit is photography showcasing refugees living in that specific city. On display in Chicago’s Boombox in Wicker Park from June 19-27th was the work of Maren Wickwire, titled I miss you all. Wickwire is a filmmaker, designer, and photographer who uses her work to raise awareness for issues of social justice. For this project, she photographed refugees from Syria, Iraq, Laos, Cambodia, and the Republic of Congo who had to flee their home countries to move to Chicago between 1983 and 2016. The collection shows these refugees and their challenges, hopes, and dreams with the intention of helping community members better understand and support their new neighbors. 

  Photo courtesy of  Manifest Media .

Photo courtesy of Manifest Media.

Loom participated as a vendor for this weeklong event. Our artisans have come to Chicago from all over the world, and we recognize that they face these struggles of adjustment. Through our weekly workshops, these women come together to learn new skills while gaining a source of income in order to help them build a sense of community and adjust to their new lives in Chicago. We are proud of our artisans’ continued resilience and positivity.

 Loom products on display alongside others.  Photo courtesy of  Manifest Media .

Loom products on display alongside others. Photo courtesy of Manifest Media.

Purchasing Power

How much do you know about who made the clothes you’re wearing? June 15th marked the opening night of Purchasing Power: Chicago’s Relationship with Conscious Consumerism, an exhibit that makes viewers think about this question. The aim is to raise awareness about the unethical and unsafe realities of the modern fashion industry for the environment and for the majority of people who make our clothes. The walls of the gallery are lined with staggering facts about how much clothing we consume and throw away. For instance, the world consumes about 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year; Americans specifically send 10 million tons of clothing to the dump each year. The people making these clothes are subject to incredibly long hours and poor conditionsmany of them are children. 

The exhibit asks viewers to think about these facts in light of their own consumption, but also provides encouragement for change. It showcases a number of businesses in Chicago that are paving the way for a fair and sustainable fashion industry and serving as alternative sources to purchase clothing and accessories. On display are various beautiful garments, pieces of jewelry, scarves, and bags. 

Purchasing from Loom, like the other featured ethical brands, is a way to empower the people who made the product you’re buying. When you buy a scarf from Loom, you not only have a beautiful piece to enjoy, but you know that the artisan who made it was paid a livable wage. This exhibit proves that choosing where to purchase from can have a powerful impact on people and the environment. Loom is proud to be a source to use that power for good. 

 Loom crochet earrings on display at  Purchasing Power.

Loom crochet earrings on display at Purchasing Power.

 Loom knit scarf on display.

Loom knit scarf on display.

The curator of the exhibit, Shifra Whiteman, is in the process of developing her own ethical fashion brand, Pintl + Keyt, which was also part of the display. She said that the exhibit was created with students in mind—and it truly is a learning experience.The first step to change is learning, so check out Purchasing Power at the Hokin Project Gallery at 623 S. Wabash. The exhibit will be open Monday through Wednesday from 9am-5pm until September 22nd. If you have any old, frayed, or holey clothes or linens, you can bring them with you and they will be sent to the Chicago Textile Recycling Center.