WEAVING WITH PURPOSE: ABLE Incorporated creates one-of-a-kind items
Not just anyone is able to weave a useful, attractive rug or help create a one-of-a kind hand crafted quilt.
But the individuals at ABLE incorporated of Bowman, N.D., know a thing or two about it.
Carolynne Jones, who was hired by was hired by an organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to start a “day program” in Bowman has now overseen the growth of a business that offers for sale rugs, placemats, quilts, tote bags, crayon bags, aprons, scarves, pillows and a number of “made-to-order” items.
“We are up for anything. That’s why we call ourselves the ‘made-to-order store,’” Jones said.
Jones said in the early 1990s she bought her first loom and hoped to utilize it within the program. She wrote for a grant to pair the individuals supported by ABLE with others in the community. They hired people to help sew and use the looms.
Soon there were enough products that an outlet store was needed.
“We hired people from the community to come in and work side by side with the people we support. We had all kinds of ways to expand the sewing department. We had the experts imployed with us that could start teaching people to sew. That is how it started to expand and in by the early 1990s we had things to sell besides our rugs.”
“We make a ton of things, we have probably eight looms, we do a lot of rug weaving.” Jones said unwanted clothing is donated by the local second hand store, and clothing is tediously cut into one-inch strips for rugs or small squares for quilts. Buttons are removed from clothing, and returned to the store for sale.
Jones said two of the original sewers remain employed with ABLE, in new roles now. “We took them on as regular staff and now we’ve got staff that can sew.”
“That’s the beauty of the whole thing – people we support are on the industrial sewing machines because we have the teachers to do it.”
Jones said ABLE is a private non-profit operation that contacts with the state of North Dakota to provide support for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In some cases that means providing day support for individuals living along or with parents or other caretakers. In other cases it is residential support. A group home was just vacated and the eight residents moved do a new apartment building where ABLE staff will provide care needed.
“We wanted them to have the opportunity to have their own apartments,” she said.
The sale of the products provides wages for the people making the products. The company also handles aluminum recycling and sells re-usable shopping bags at the towns two grocery stores. The bags are displayed at the store and a jar is available with a note suggesting a $2 donation. Jones said people are good about making the donation.
“People are paid for every job they do here whether it is cutting a button off, vacuuming, helping a can customer, shoveling outside for the cedar chest (the second hand store),” Jones said.
“We are our own best customers,” she added of the employees who enjoy the handiwork of their fellow craftsmen.
ABLE is located on the north end of main street in Bowman.