Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Kenyan Quilting Bee

Here are some photos of my students working on their quilt squares.  Note the iron box!  They manage to do pretty darn good work with little to work with.  Their squares are really turning out to be quite colorful as they share their scraps with each other.  These are great girls (and the token male) and a lot of fun to work with.

If you double click on the photos you are able to enlarge them.

For the past 3-4 weeks I have been working with the Garment Making students at Kenbric, attempting to teach them the concept and techniques of Quilting!  Since most of the students have limited English and broken Kiswahili and I have no Kikamba, you can imagine the challenges I am facing!  Even after showing them pictures of quilts I had made, and photos from magazines, they had no idea of what the purpose of this assignment was all about.  Finally, my counterpart came into the class room and talked about making bedsheets from scraps of material and how beautiful they could be.  Somehow he managed to get them to understand the outcome and now most are interested and curious about what we are doing.  

We started by practicing making small stitches - you can hear me say "kidogo, kidogo" a lot!  They are not used to 1/4" seam allowances or sewing with only one strand of thread so I am changing much of they learned!  But in the end, the small hand stitches will make their garment making even better. (I hope).  I give them quilting needles at the start of class, collect them when class is over - that way they are available for the next session.  They are amused to see me use a needle threader - but I will not give that up!  I bring 2 pairs of scissors  with me, the ones they use really could not cut the proverbial butter.  They measure using a ruler or tape measure, mark off the 1/4" for the seam allowance and I try to get them to sew along that line.  I have shown them the tape we use, but since it not available here they cannot use it.  It has been difficult to get them to cut exact sizes of squares or rectangles and to measure as they go.  With one iron box it is hard to kupiga pasi (iron) as each section is joined.  There will be a Kenyan style of quilting that will actually work by the end of this term.

I have taken to enlarging the patterns (good friend Nancy J sent a calendar of 365 squares) and coloring in the various pieces.  Trying to make step-by-step instructions on paper so that this project will be "sustainable" (A BIG PC word).  I have to make each square ahead of time so that I can make sure my measurements are accurate.  That is my task for this afternoon.

Most of the students are really enjoying this new skill, a few absolutely hate it.  It takes too much time and patience for them.  Not much difference between students here and in the US.  I am hoping that soon the students will be able to put enough squares together to actually have a small quilt to take home with them.  With any luck, this class will continue with the new term that starts in January and the first years now can help the new students and life will be easier.


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My Great Family

My Great Family
Katie, Shannon, Lucy, Pat, Russ, Betsy

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