Roadtrip

I’m sharing a little Rwanda love today: I was lucky enough to have some of my family here a few weeks ago, so I took time off and we went on a roadtrip together. We saw hills and volcanoes, tea plantations and coffee washing stations, Africa’s biggest montane forest and beautiful lake Kivu stretching out to DRC. This really is the most incredible country.

At the end of the trip, we went to see the gorillas. We got up with the sun and trekked up through the forest for a couple of hours before arriving at the clearing where our group was hanging out. It was mid-morning so they were lazing around, snoozing, playing and sleepily munching on something that smelt like wet celery. It felt like we’d just stepped into their home, but the guides had this amazing way of constantly communicating with them, making low calming grunts and getting low grunts back – all ok here. It was incredibly special to be so close these huge, beautiful animals and I couldn’t stop noticing the hands and feet and eyes, which are so like our own.

I loved their poses too. That last one is total swimwear magazine material right?? Anyway, I won’t bore you with the 800 other photos but suffice it to say that Rwanda is incredible and if you ever get a chance to visit, you really should.

Sewing-wise, it’s been a fairly busy month. I am battling with the Grainline tiny pocket tank, which I so want to be a wardrobe staple, but the fit just does not want to play ball… We’re taking some time apart while I re-assess what the issue might be through extensive googling/lurking other sewist bloggers… In happier news I’ve got another BHL Kim to share. Remember I bought some special waxprint fabric a few weeks ago? For a long-distance joint project? No? No matter, you can read all about it over on The Monthly Stitch 🙂

Siobhan xx

Fabric shopping in Kigali

As promised, here’s my first little nugget of Kigali love for sewists, kicking off with an essential: fabric shopping.

1. Kimironko market.

Big, noisy, crowded – Kigali’s main market is definitely “an experience”. We arrived, parked, got swarmed by a group of yellow-tabarded helpers, agreed with one to guard the car, agreed with another to act as “guide/bag-carrier” and then headed into the market. I assume the car-guarding and bag-carrying is optional, but we opted for the path of least resistance.

Entering from the carpark side, you come first to the fresh produce section: towering pyramids of avocadoes, massive stems of plantains, strings of dried fish, dusty piles of sorghum and cassava flour, it’s beautiful and chaotic. We wove through the dark, narrow aisles of the market, passing pots and pans, electrical goods, tourist nicknackery, until finally we hit the fabric stalls.

Sifting peas on Kimironko market in Kigali

Pumpkins for sale

(photos by Kigali Wire)

The fabric stalls at Kimironko are small and tall – you point at what you’d like to see and it’s reached down for you. The sellers aren’t too hassling, but with the cramped environment and the omnipresent bag-carrier trying to steer you to his favourite stalls, it’s not the most relaxed shopping environment. I left with just one piece in the end – a mystery fabric which is definitely not “100% cotton” (I showed it a hot iron and it got decidedly melty) but I love the pattern and the way it holds its shape.

For my first Kigali make, I went with another Emery dress with capped sleeves (see previous version here). This time I omitted the collar and scooped out the neckline. The selvages on the fabric were pretty great so I used them on the hem of skirt and sleeves – yes that was a conscious design decision and not another lazy hemming cop-out. Ahem.

2. Fabric stalls “in Town”

Kigali doesn’t have a city centre as such. It’s a series of hills and each one has a different personality. One hill has the main shopping centres and is known simply as “Town”. On one of the streets in Town (KN 2 St), a small unmarked doorway (No. 35) conceals a warren of fabric shops.

Housed in an actual built space, there is a little more breathing room here than at Kimironko market. There’s also better lighting and, if anything, more choice. In fact I had it on good authority (from a Kigali tailor) that many of the Kimironko stall holders buy their merchandise here and then re-sell it at the market.

It took me two goes to actually buy anything here, due to the sheer overwhelming choice. Some pieces are displayed hung around the shop walls, but there are also huge piles of neatly folded fabric, which the shopowners will help you handle if you want to browse through. In the end I came away with four pieces. All cotton… I’m almost certain.

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At the moment I’m thinking the burgundy/cream for trousers and the others for dresses. One thing to be aware of is that a lot of sellers will only sell you the full 5m length. I swapped half of one piece with a fabric-buying buddy, but I have a lot of the others. Waxprint cushion covers anyone?

Anyway, that’s my experience of fabric shopping in Kigali, so far. Beautiful cottons to be found, for sure. You just need to know where to look, and go with plenty of energy.

Siobhan xx

Changes (& Instasnaps)

Hello!

It’s been quite a long time since my last post. Four months in fact. Oops!! In fairness there’s been change afoot on the real-life/work front: I am now a proud resident of Kigali, Rwanda!

It was a change that I knew was coming, but ended up happening in rather a more whirlwind manner than anticipated. Essentially, I finished my old contract in Geneva on a Friday in February and the following Tuesday was sitting on a plane to Rwanda. Boom.

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This is not now nor has ever been a blog about work, but suffice it to say that this move pretty much represents all my professional dreams come true. I get to continue working for an organization I love, but in a role with much more direct people-contact. So far it is everything I hoped for and I love it.

Kigali meanwhile is a ridiculously lovely place to live. For anyone who doesn’t know, Rwanda is a little landlocked country tucked between Tanzania, Burundi and DRC. It is stunningly and endlessly beautiful. Rolling green luscious hills in all directions. On top of that the infrastructure is amazing (think perfectly paved roads all over the country) and Kigali itself is this fascinating hub of new enterprise, with startup coffee shops and dance studios and great restaurants. All-in-all I feel extremely lucky to be living here.

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I’ve no intention of stopping sewing, but since getting out here I’ve been thinking a lot about whether I want to continue this blog; whether it feels appropriate. As much as I LOVE following the blogs of other sewists (I really do) there is something undeniably narcissistic about blogging photos of yourself, which I was suddenly very conscious of. So I was tussling with that.

I decided in the end that I will keep blogging. Maybe just once a month. I struggle to keep a diary and am not great at correspondence, and this blog goes a little way to ticking both of those boxes. But at the same time, I’ll try and mix it up a bit. A few photos of my makes, but also some showcasing of the fabulous creativity of the Kigali sewing scene. From fabric shops and stalls to tailors and designers, to sewing co-ops. There’s lots to share, and that way hopefully it won’t feel quite so ME ME ME!!

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I hope that makes sense and that you’ll keep reading the blog. My sewing machine is currently in a trunk somewhere between Geneva and Kigali, so I’ll let you know when it arrives.

Siobhan xx