Before you knew much about Rethreaded, you had probably seen our Grace Scarf around town. It’s our most recognizable item, and we’re so grateful for the many community members who proudly sport one.
Both the Grace Scarf and its newer sister product, the Threads for Hope bracelet, are made from upcycled tee shirts which have been given a new life and purpose. They are, in many ways, a physical representation of the Rethreading Process and how it transforms lives.
Transforming unwanted tee-shirts into wearable art
Grace Scarves are the first item our survivors make when they come to us, because it teaches the rethreading process through the therapeutic and creative ritual of making something beautiful.
Each Grace Scarf and Threads for Hope bracelet is carefully and personally crafted from upcycled tee shirts. They come to us worn out, threadbare, and no longer wanted. But then, a survivor cuts them into 15 individual threads and then stretches each by hand.
Under the pressure and attention of each stretch, the threads curl, eliminating any errors made in the cutting process. Then, once bundled, the strands are tied together into a lovely scarf.
The Threads for Hope bracelet is made through a similar process of lovingly weaving together each thread, which has been given individualized attention that transforms its imperfections and prepares it for a new purpose.
That’s why we call them the Grace Scarf and Threads for Hope; each piece we create, and the method we use to make it, reminds us that we come from a broken place, but, because of the grace of new beginnings, we have hope that every thread can be transformed.
Learning the rethreading process
In case you’re newer to Rethreaded, when we say “threads” we mean the experiences, memories, and thoughts that have made us. “Rethreading” means transforming each thread, even those we would like to hide or cut out, into a renewed and purposeful part of who we are.
We have broken the process of rethreading down into five essential components, which we practice in our lives and work, including in the way we make The Grace Scarf. The components are openness, community, purpose, vision, and time.
Openness is not only the ability to honestly see our own threads, but it also includes the vulnerability of allowing others to see them, too. This means taking an honest assessment of our traumas, griefs, disappointments, and mistakes.
Then, we share those painful threads with others we trust, allowing that vulnerability to take away some of the sting and isolation. In putting our experiences into words, and expressing them outside of ourselves, they hold less power over us.
Similarly, as we’re making a Grace Scarf, we take each individual thread, before it’s stretched, and we notice the imperfections in how it was cut and where the thread is wearing thin. Then, we acknowledge that the thread is still beautiful and worthy of use.
Vulnerability requires a strong community, which must feel safe. Our genuine communities are made up of the people who help, encourage, and hold us accountable. It’s important to distinguish this from people who may not be worthy of our trust.
One of Rethreaded’s primary goals is to create a work and therapeutic environment where survivors feel safe, trust the people around them to carry their stories, and choose to open up and take power away from negative self-talk and relationships.
When we make the Grace Scarf, we reinforce this principle by using 15 threads to make every one scarf. One thread would not make a scarf but, when added to other threads and tied together, the whole unit is made into something beautiful.
When any of us feels stuck in fight, flight, or freeze mode, it’s almost impossible to look beyond the moment. After living that way for years, or even decades, survivors may have trouble looking more holistically at their lives.
Because we can all relate to that in some way, the exercise of stepping back and evaluating our larger purpose keeps us grounded and helps us make decisions, even in hard moments, that point us in the right direction.
For instance, when thinking about an important role—like that of a spouse or a parent—we don’t focus on immediate challenges. Instead, we focus on how we would want to be remembered in that role. Keeping our eyes on the legacy we want to help create informs better decision-making and focuses us on the long game, not the immediate challenge.
When making the Grace Scarf, and a thread isn’t curling the right way, a survivor can take a deep breath and remember what the scarf will look like when completed. Instead of getting discouraged, this motivates them to keep their gaze fixed on the larger goal of creating a scarf for someone else to enjoy and view as a reminder of Rethreaded’s mission.
When the Rethreaded team talks about vision, we mean the hope or belief that things can change for the better. Like purpose, this means looking beyond present circumstances to build an idea or an image of where we could be, not where we are today.
The Threads for Hope bracelet is a great example. Threads for Hope was born because our staff saw the Grace Scarf and identified that the threads used to make each scarf could also be used to make a bracelet. Then, they built an image of what it could look like. After repeated attempts, the Threads for Hope bracelet joined our inventory as a popular piece.
If we never say, “maybe it could be this way,” or “I have an idea,” we get stuck where we are. Like one of our survivors, whom we’ll call Jane. She was living on a friend’s front porch. When we encouraged her to look for something else, she replied, “but this is so much better than where I was living before.”
In response, we walked with her through the steps of investigating other housing, and she soon believed she could get there. Today, she has a beautiful apartment of her own.
In our production and efficiency-obsessed culture, it’s hard to give ourselves the time or the space for anything that won’t yield an instantaneous result. But time is our greatest resource and the currency we need to reach our potential.
If we didn’t set aside deliberate space to think, focus, and dream, then we would never have the space we need to act on—or respond to—the purpose we’ve worked so hard to identify.
Changing habits, healing from trauma, repairing relationships, and every other part of the rethreading process takes a lot more time than we may wish it did, but it’s the best possible use of the hours and days we have under the sun.
For this reason, we will never use machinery to make The Grace Scarf or the Threads for Hope bracelet. They’re handmade and individually created, because it’s a reminder that the best things we ever create, do, or repair take time. When we hurry the process, or focus too much on quotas and results, we miss what the process can teach us.
You can be part of the rethreading process
As you’ve just learned, Rethreaded is more than our name. It’s our approach to living and working, and the rethreading process guides the way we educate, train, and involve our community.
We offer as many educational events as possible, inviting community members into our campus and our work. We would love for you to attend an upcoming event, learn more about Rethreaded, and find a way to get involved.
Rethreaded also continuously welcomes new survivors into our space and work, teaching them the rethreading process by giving them the opportunity to make Grace Scarves. If you or your loved ones don’t yet have a Grace Scarf, then we invite you to purchase a scarf or Thread for Hope and give a survivor of human trafficking a chance to renew her hope, reignite her dreams, and release her potential.