Monday, 25 May 2015

A fabric exchange

Something a bit different today - with not a bit of sewing involved! I think I've mentioned before that I love kangas, the rectangular printed cloths with borders that are worn by women in East Africa. I adore their bright colours and bold patterns, and the sayings that are an essential feature of the design. When I was growing up, my mum had a beautiful kanga which she liked to use as a tablecloth. The Kiswahili writing on it was fascinatingly exotic, and frustratingly untranslatable in those pre-internet days. Years later in South Africa I managed to buy myself a few kangas here and there, as well as some similar-sized cloths that are worn by Swazi women. And when my husband and I were married, we used a bright green kanga as our wedding canopy (The saying, translated, read: 'Don't be jealous of me, I have been patient', which I thought very appropriate).

I had never met anyone who shared my love of kangas until I came across Sarah's blog, Kabati la Kanga, in which she documents kangas she buys from her current home in Tanzania (in a town at the foot of Kilimanjaro, no less!). After a bit of correspondence, we decided to do a kanga exchange: I would send her a South African 'kanga', and she would send me the real thing from Tanzania.

Well, it was very exciting to receive a parcel a few days ago, covered in lovely Tanzanian stamps and containing not one, not two, but THREE beautiful kangas, all of them doubles (kangas traditionally being sold in pairs).

Sarah provided translations of the mottos, which are, from top to bottom: 'Lord bless us and give us blessings'; 'A house filled with love is not without blessings' and 'Give trouble to others, not me'. I love, love, love all three kangas, but am particularly taken by the red one, given that I collect enamel teapots and love the way they evoke cosiness and domesticity. 

Sarah's parcel hasn't reached her yet, so I can't show what I sent her. Let's just say it was a traditional Swazi cloth and an unusual kanga from my Cape Town days. I hope she enjoys them!

Monday, 18 May 2015

Little gifts

Does doing something two years in a row make it a tradition? I hope so, because taking my mum for a birthday lunch at Federation Square - child-free! -  was so pleasant last year that my sister and I decided to do the same thing again this year. As I live and work in the suburbs, and as work is really my only child-free time, it feels especially exciting to take a train into town (alone!) and to enjoy good food and conversation (without interruptions!). Follow it up with a nice long browse at Kimono House (and perhaps even a small purchase) and you have the makings of a wonderful afternoon.

There's always something interesting to see at Fed Square and on this occasion I was happy to have arrived early as there was a wonderful troupe of what I thought were Chinese dragons (a Chinese friend has since informed me that they were, in fact, lions). They performed a rather exciting dance with plenty of acrobatics.

But onto the handmade portion of Mum's gift. For years she has been raving about a store called Ziguzagu, so I decided to go check it out, buy some silk and make her a forget-me-not jewellery pouch. Well, words can't do justice to the incredible range of traditional and vintage Japanese fabrics this place sells. They are all in wooden crates organised by colour, and the shades are just so beautiful. I could easily have spent all day trying to find the right combination of colours and patterns, but time constraints forced me to be decisive.

Although the silks were a little slippery to work with, I managed to put the pouch together reasonably well (interfacing the outer pouch helped). I've said it before and no doubt I'll say it again: I really love this little pattern. With the leftover bits of silk I made an open wide zipper pouch lined with linen. I think the colours of the silks are very much my mum's style, and I hope that she enjoys her little gifts - and that I remember not to make her exactly the same thing next year!

But here's the funny bit. At the restaurant, seating was on stools, each with a thin, flat cushion. And when we got up at the end of our lunch we discovered that Mum had been sitting on...

...a cushion made of the exact same fabric I'd used for her gift!