Enkiteng is our flagship program operating in 2 subsistence farming villages in Kenya, where local seamstresses teach participating women how to sew on treadle or electric sewing machines (depending on access to electricity).

In 2011, we launched the program in Enoosaen – a remote Maasai village in Transmara District, Narok County in Kenya. In 2012, we expanded the Enkiteng program to Nyeri in Central District.

Women in our Enkiteng Program learn how to sew first by making our design-patented Enkiteng Bags which are re-usable sustainable cloth multipurpose bags. The simple rectangular design is easy for the seamstresses to learn rather quickly, which gives them confidence and provides a sustainable income.

Enkiteng bags were originally designed to serve as an eco-friendly gift wrapping bags, but over the years they have been on the market, they have become SEW much more!

They are being used as

  • travel bags
  • storage for jewelry
  • shoe bags
  • and more!

They are fast, flexible, and easy to use – as well as fun to give – and re-gift!

Each bag made after 2014 is initialed or signed by the woman who made it and their profiles and pictures are on the SEAMSTRESSES page of our website.

When wrapping your presents, consider this:

– In the U.S., annual trash from gift-wrapping and shopping bags totals 4 million tons (source: Use Less Stuff)

– From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, household waste increases by more than 25%. Added food waste, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons all add up to an additional 1 million tons a week to our landfills (Source: EPA)

– If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet (Source: CalRecycle)

– Half of the paper America consumes is used to wrap and decorate consumer products (Source: The Recycler’s Handbook, 1990)

The concept first originated from one of our founder’s spouse, who being either lazy or – as he likes to say – environmentally friendly, insisted on wrapping all presents in pillowcases. Inspired by this (or tired of all the missing pillow cases around the holidays), founders Jan Ito and Lianne Aoyagi created a design using ribbon and remnants from quilting supplies. Since the early 2000’s, the bags have been in use between family and friends with many compliments and people asking, “where can I get these?”

Because of the very simple design, low cost, and ease of transportability, the founders of Seeds to Sew felt that this was a perfect project to pilot a basic sewing program. We are very encouraged with the results and the positive impact it has already made for the women involved!

Kitenge products

As the seamstresses become more confident, they make Enkiteng bags using locally sourced fabric (called Kitenge) that they purchase on the Kenyan market. This is a very important step in the program as they

  • support their local economy
  • become more confident (making an investment)
  • learning small business skills (investment and profit, product development)
  • learn how to sew other things such as knapsacks, tote bags, wrap-skirts, and other products
  • learn how to sew school uniforms that they can sell in Kenya, becoming independent from our program