Hello, Africa!

Hey, everyone!

It has been a while, but I haven´t been idle, as soon as I get some photos taken, I will be able to show you this year’s holiday party dress and there are some other projects on the verge of completion, too!

But what I actually wanted to do today, was to share one interesting blog post with you. It is written by my dear colleague, Kadi (seen here with her Burgundy Wedding Guest Dress made by me) who currently is doing some great volunteer work in Uganda, Africa. Her task is to help the local school for children with special needs to develop some kind of production unit for young people with special needs who are not attending the school anymore but continue living there, so that by selling their goods they would be able to cover the expenses and have an income.

The idea is to produce several hand-made goods for sale and also take orders for sewing services. Of course now you know where I am getting at – fabrics!

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Over our long Skype chat Kadi sent me several photos of some of the most fantastic kitenge prints and I got very enthusiastic about the possibility of her actually bringing something along for me when she returns in January.

Below you can read a copy of her blog post that describes the local fabric shopping/sewing life, that I found very interesting. With her permission, I have only copied the English version of her original Estonian/English text that is available here.

For more details about the whole production unit, the little shop the volunteers have helped to start and of course, more supercool fabrics!, please look here.

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Tailoring business.

Moving around together with the tailors has brought along many interesting activities and discoveries regarding the textile and tailoring industry in Uganda. Firstly, I have learned about many new places for finding good fabrics and the important shops have been written down and memorized. Interestingly the shops are mostly organized so that similar businesses are all located in one place, e g there is the Energy Center for all kinds of eletrical materials, Majestic Plaza is the place for buying beads and pearls and other handicraft things (+ men who do your nails located on the ground floor) and many textile centers are packed tightly around two streets in downtown. From the outside it looks as if there were only a few shops but after entering the building one discoveries that every house is a labyrinth where all salespersons try to convince you to buy their products (hello sister, come and have a look, welcome, do you want some kitenge etc). After shopping there a few times you locate some shops that have good variety, reasonable prices, and friendly salespersons. One of the best experiences was to go fabric shopping together with teacher Winnie from the women’s project. She walked in front on crutches and me and Liina followed her along the lines of shops helping to choose materials and carry the shopping bags. While accompanying her we felt a lot less shouting and unnecessary attention around us. While moving around on your own, it still happens that the usual price of 25 000 – 35 000 for 6 yards of fabric turns suddenly into 60 000 and in that case I have often just left the shop because the bargaining and explaining would take too long. In some ways this kind of asking for a double price is also a bit disrespectful. Especially when I am bargaining in Luganda and state clearly that I know the real price anyway. The fabric shops have also specialized further – there are separate places for buying kitenge, materials for gomezis, for suits and so on. The surroundings of fabric shops are always filled with humming of the sewing machines and tailors with sewing machines have been squeezed into tiniest corners possible.
Besides textiles I also had to learn a lot about the sales and prices of sewing machines. Apparently the sewing machines sold in downtown Kampala are all brought in second hand from Asia. The prices vary between 350 000 and 500 000. The main factors affecting the price being the different stitches (they call it ‘designs’ here) the machine can make and whether it has a table and/or motor included. Only new machines I saw were manual Singer machines that are most probably also manufactured in China. While still searching for sewing machines for the tailors, we came across an easier and cheaper solution – getting four sewing machines from Bluesky. Due to having only solar energy, Bluesky was not using these machines anyway and we could repair four instead of buying one.
Ruth (left) and Night with some of their handicraft.
Handmade tie-dye fabric.
Shopping for fabrics.
Second hand sewing machines from Asia.
Olivia and the great artwork done by me : p
A welcoming light in our shop.
My home-office

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