Tanzanian Kitenge


Well, it finally seems that we can kiss winter goodbye here on the East Coast, but Tony couldn't wait for the warm weather to arrive and had to jet back to Tanzania for a few gorgeous weeks. At this time of year, the rainy season is just finishing up and everything is incredibly lush and green. While spring in North Carolina is lovely, I have to be honest--it's pretty dreary today, and I'm jealous! 

Tony has been updating our Instagram (follow us at instagram.com/seededUSA) with some great shots of our new line of shoe bags with this season's kitenge, made by our talented tailor Doto:

It's so exciting to see how they are turning out! You might notice that Doto's sewing machine looks like an old Singer treadle machine...and that's because it is. Most tailors in Tanzania use treadle machines because power outages are so frequent, even in the wealthiest parts of the city. There are plenty of low cost electric models available, but unless you want to mess with a generator or lose hours of work time each week, the old-fashioned human-powered machines make the most sense.

Although I wish I was there to thumb through all the gorgeous kitenge myself, Tony has done a great job of keeping me in the loop--he sent me photos of dozens of patterns and I was able to choose the designs we went with from across the Atlantic. 

Kitenge shopping is a hectic but inspiring experience, and one of my favorite ways to spend a day in Dar. Kariakoo--the main market district in Dar es Salaam--has hundreds of shops that sell fabric from all over Africa. They are packed full of cloth in small stalls like this one, where Tony purchased a lot of our fabric for this order from Mary (the shopkeeper pictured):

The Tanzanian kitenge companies make limited runs of cloth, so if you stumble across something you like, you have to be sure to snap it up. There is no guarantee that it will be anywhere to be found in a week--or that you could find the shop again if you tried! I have a friend in Kariakoo who bought a length of beautiful Tanzanian kitenge in a gorgeous turquoise color that was highly unusual. She took it with her to cloth shops all over town to try to find more, but no one had it. Strangely, when visiting Malawi, I came across some of that very fabric in a small fabric stall in Nkhata Bay. The pattern had been released about six months prior, and some of the run had been exported across the border. I bought all they had (since I needed to keep a bit for myself!). 

In other news about this order: in an effort to keep our products as local as possible, we are discontinuing the use of imported ribbon for our drawstrings for the shoe bags, and have hired some ladies who braid hair to plait kitenge strips into cording. We have some other exciting improvements in the works, so keep your eyes open for another post coming soon!

 

With love and a spirit of adventure,

Caroline