Friday, June 29, 2012

Exciting News!

After many fledgling attempts, and much work, I am pleased to announce that Kitambaa Designs together with the Bitengye Designers, is launching a new website. Now no matter where you live, you will be kept up-to-date on all the items for sale from both of us. A shopping cart will make it possible for you to shop with confidence, and to provide credit card information on a secure site. You will receive your purchases more easily, as a result. This might be a good time to clarify the difference between Kitambaa and Bitengye. Kitambaa is my home-based business, providing fabrics, patterns, kits and more, all inspired by Africa. Bitengye is the co-operative of 20 Ugandan women we have been teaching and working with over the last four years. Kitambaa purchases help enable us to go to Uganda, at least in part, and keep us inspired with new designs and fabrics. Bitengye profits go entirely to the women in that group. They are paid up-front for their products. Most of them are shipped to Canada for sale, while others remain in Uganda to be sold there. The success of the co-operative is largely due to Alice, the Co-ordinator of the group. Her patience and hard work, her humour and professionalism, are remarkable. The new sewing school that has been built with proceeds from the "Alice bags" she makes, is almost up and running. It is her vision that this will be a center for teaching women sewing and quilting for years to come.


Friday, June 8, 2012

Recheal's Dream

Recheal. As many of you will recall, Recheal is a member of the Bitengye Designers. She is a delightful young woman, a widow and mother of 5 children. She's 33 years old, and she's HIV positive. In addition to making some of the "best quality" products for the Bitengye Designers, she is the founder and leader of the Kikagati HIV positive group, organizing drama and singing events to neighbouring communities, and over-seeing the Kitambaa-sponsored food program for HIV clients who are too ill to work. She is someone whose positive outlook on life - fuelled by a profound faith and a dignity and sense of thankfulness that has often put me to shame - is a natural leader in her community. At the beginning of April, Recheal began a nursing program at the Kabuyanda Medical and Health Training Centre. Her dream is to be able to provide medication and nursing care in her community - presently not available. The crime up until now is that ARV's (anti-retro-virals) are provided by the government of Uganda, but without money for transportation, the people of Kikagati have no access to the drugs.  
So when I was contacted to ask if Kitambaa Designs would consider sponsoring Recheal for her nurses' training, I didn't hesitate to say "yes". The fees for the 18 month program, including her course, her accommodation and meals, and her books, come to 4,765,000 shillings. This translates to just under $2,000. I can't think of a more worthwhile cause to contribute to. Already Kitambaa has received a donation for $400 from one individual. But if there's anyone else out there who would also like to help with this, please let me know. (Sending
me an email would be best - There have been so many of you who have been so generous to the Kitambaa Sewing Project and the Bitengye Designers already. But I felt this particular request might strike a chord with one or two of you. So here are a few photos of Rechael - at home sewing, modelling her newly-made tablecloth, taking part in a traditional dance at the celebration at the end of one of our workshops, and with her family (the little girl in the hat is Recheal's youngest). These give you at least a little glimpse into Recheal and her life in Kikagati. Knowing her in person has been a joy for me, and I look forward to visiting her at the nursing school when we go to Uganda this fall, and to hearing from her all that she's learning. I will be sure to post more photos then.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Last Days in Nova Scotia

Quilt Canada ended on Saturday night, and today - Tuesday - we fly home to the west coast, but the last couple of days have been wide open, and have given Joan and I the opportunity to explore a little of the Nova Scotia countryside. There was the mandatory visit to Peggy's Cove, but it was the old houses and boat houses rather than the lighhouse which charmed me there. Then on to Mahone Bay and Luunenburg - both utterly delightful. Full of much more splendid dwellings, many clapboard and painted in bright colours, and full of artists and galleries. The highlight, for sure, was visiting Laurie Swim's Gallery - to see her work hung on the wall in
such a fine setting - to see a fibre artist who has worked hard and for a very long time in her medium, and who is now recognized as one of the east coast's finest artists. She had a vision, and she followed it relentlessly, long before "art quilts" were even recognized. And now, with affirmations from the likes of Alex Colville and Mary Pratt, she has finally come into her own. An inspiring story, that all of us who call ourselves fibre artists should remember, and in which we should find encouragement.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

From Away - A Fibre Art Network Exhibit

Being in Halifax all week has been a treat. While most of the time I was busy working in the Kitambaa Designs booth in the Merchant Mall, I was also able to see the National Juried Show, and several concurrent shows. One of the first I visited was the Fibre Art Network show - "From Away". It was tremendous to see how differently this theme was interpreted. The first photo shows Carol Seeley's piece, "Just Visiting", picturing the Trumpeter Swans that visit the Comox Valley every winter. Next is Judith Panson's "Kokanee Run", based on the salmon returning home to spawn in the fall. The photo really doesn't do justice to Pat Findlay's work in "Too Far Away", as full as it is of beading, which reflects the light so that it shimmers. Thelma Newbury's representation of the Northern Lights takes another slant on the theme, her hand-dyed fabrics perfectly showing the play of green and blue across a northern night sky. And lastly there is Emilie Belak's "Crows and Crabapples". To see more of this collection, you can visit the FAN website, at, then click on "Exhibitions".

Quilt Canada has also been a place to meet up with old friends - here I am with Lee from New Brunswick. She and I first met on the bus when Quilt Canada was in Halifax. And there was also opportunity to make new friends too. One of the highlights of the week for me was a late evening spent with old and new friends from Yellowknife - talking quilting and laughing hilariously - so good for the soul. We have a couple of days to tour around before heading home, but I can already tell you how worthwhile it was to be here, and in so many ways. What a life!