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Njabini Woolspinning Workshop, Aberdares, Kenya Dec 2009

Dec 20

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12/20/2009 2:11 PM  RssIcon

This past summer, I was asked if I was interested in helping a self sufficient group of spinners and weavers on the Kinangop Plateau in Kenya. This group is part of the Friends of Kinangop Plateau which formed 5 years ago in an effort to save endangered birds and their habitat while providing alternate forms of income for the local residents. The Woolspinning workshop was struggling with the effects of the recession and was in need of revitalization. The way I was contacted is a story within itself. Luca Borghesio, an Italian ornithologist, contacted me through information from his friend, Charlie Moores, an avid birder and blogger from the UK( http://10000birds.com/10000-birds-sharpes-longclaw-and-the-kinangop-grasslands ) had met with Njabini a few years before. Charlie had a friend who was a member of WARP (http://www.weavearealpeace.org/ ), which is an organization whose purpose is to promote fiber arts and improve the quality of life of textile artisans, particularly among lesser developed countries. I am a member of WARP and live in Kenya, hence the connection.

Njabini is an hour and a half drive from Nairobi and is nestled at the foot of the Aberdare Mountains, above the floor of the Rift Valley. Some of 10 members of Njabini Woolspinning workshop received training through DANIDA and Nature Kenya. The Ministry of Agriculture loaned them the use of a building in the Njabini Agricultural Training Centre. The facility has no heating nor electricity, as is frequently the case in rural buildings, but they have water from a 4000 liter tank for rainwater catchment, purchased with the help from EU-CDTF. The wool is washed and dyed using this water. They have erected several frame looms for tapestry weaving and their wheels are mostly jua kali wheels which are extremely inefficient. The dedication of the members of Njabini Woolspinning Workshop makes up for much of what is lacking on the material level. Over the past 5 years, this group has earned most of its money from rug yarn they have spun for rug weavers in Nairobi.

The group has a great supply of wool, mostly from Corriedale sheep. The first steps in improving their product started with the wool processing itself. I introduced variations to their traditional ways of washing and dyeing the wool. The results were fantastic: soft and evenly dyed wool were the results.

We also worked on weaving techniques. I introduced to them several tapestry/rug weaving techniques not used in Kenya. As a result, their rugs are more uniform, squared, and incorporate new design elements. They of course have a ways to go to fully implement these ideas, but they are on the way.

An edge on the market also means creating new designs as well as understanding the state of weaving in other parts of Kenya. Four of the group went with me on fact finding trip through Nairobi. The stops included two weaving workshops to see weavers at work, and the Nairobi National Museum where traditional crafts, a source of inspiration, are on display. Since that trip, we have had several additional sessions on color and design.

This December, before I left to visit family in the US, Jacqui Resley of Spinner’s Web (http://www.kenyaweaver.com/), for whom Njabini supplies rug yarn, loaned them an old Ashford Wheel, in hope that this wheel will help them spin finer yarn to her specifications. I also loaned Njabini my wheel for a few months to facility the production of better finer yarn. We also discussed the finer points of yarn twist, etc. Fortunately, Njabini is turning out more consistent quality yarn, due in part to the donation of a drum carder by a member of WARP. The group desperately needs better wheels and another drum carder. In the meantime, the thicker yarn can be spun with their current wheels, and the weaving continues. The group sold several rugs in December and is working hard to produce more quality pieces that will attract new buyers. They already have several spinners who work when the demand for yarn is high and will train more weavers once the demand for rugs increases.

 

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I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post

By rug runner on   4/22/2010 5:42 AM

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