ST. PAUL (KMSP) - The East Side Library on Greenbriar St. in St. Paul is home to more than just books. Once a week, the basement turns into a master class for weavers.
The eight or nine weavers are a group of Karen refugees that came to Minnesota from Myanmar (formally Burma) escaping an ongoing civil war.
With bamboo looms strapped to their backs, women like Rosie Say spend hours creating shirts, scarves, and handmade hats. An outlet to practice a traditional craft, while they transition to a foreign land called Minnesota.
Say came here last year with her husband and two daughters, leaving behind two sons. They settled in the St. Paul area, which is now home to more than 8,000 Karen immigrants.
So far there have been struggles adapting to life in a new country.
“We can't drive so transportation is challenging. The other thing, I can't recognize everything. It looks the same,” Say said of trying to navigate her new city.
Weaving allows Say to do something familiar. It is a cultural art form is passed down from each generation and something she hopes to do with her own children.
“Yes it reminds me of what happened in the past,” Say said.
It can take days to create one shirt with each intricate pattern and shape, taking hours to stitch.
Aside from this creative outlet, Say says the camaraderie is what keeps her going.
“It makes me happy because we come her together, we joke.”
The group meets on Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is open to anyone who wants to learn the craft.