Crafty Curios

After seeing photos of sambaza kitenge, I went on a fabric shopping spree, dreaming of making a fish-themed quilt.

While I didn’t end up finding the specific print, I learned a lot about buying kitenge in Kigali.

There are two main destinations for buying kitenge: Kimironko Market and Kigali Fabric Market.

Kimironko Market is more of a traditional market, selling everything from household goods to fruits and vegetables. There’s a a group of fabric stalls where vendors hanging their wares on wooden beams. Tailors surround the stalls, ready to turn your purchases into outfits.

Kimironko Market fabric

Kigali Fabric Market is a much smaller market located inside a small building next to the Kigali City Market mall. The selection is significantly better. Kitenge of all designs are piles into tall stacks for your sifting pleasure.

Kigali Fabric Market

If you’re traveling by car, you’ll need to help direct your driver to Kigali Fabric Market. It’s a less known destination. The best landmark is the Kigali City Market mall next door. Since Google Maps doesn’t have great photos of the entrance, here’s a blog post to help you locate it.

Kigali map

Prices at both locations depend on our negotiation skills. They can be as low as 5000 RWF for a 6-yard bundle. I wasn’t as skilled and purchased fabrics at 15000 RWF.

Overall, I prefer Kigali Fabric Market because of its large variety of kitenge. It’s a sewing paradise.

I went to Nairobi Textiles and got some awesome kitenge fabric. Can’t wait to start sewing with them!

kitenge fabric

Nairobi Textiles is a cool place. It’s a small building with many independent vendors selling fabric from their stalls. A lot of tailors also work there, ready to turn new purchases into custom clothes. The fabric are more expensive there than in Eastleigh but more affordable than say, in Canada.

The atmosphere reminded me a lot of Lotus Pond Market in Chengdu (colorful and crowded). Though, I haven’t visited Lotus Pond Market in over a decade so I’m sure a lot has changed.

If you’re buying fabric in Nairobi, I’d recommend a visit, but allow ample travel time: it’s in the heart of CBD and many Uber drivers don’t pick up there.

I’m having a real “time is circular” moment.

It’s been almost 8 years since I wrote Python scripts to create stuffed animals using 3D models from video games. Now that I’m getting back into sewing, I’m discovering a whole new world of software for pattern makers.

CLO3D is the industry standard, offering advanced cloth simulations.

Valentina is the best open source alternative (GPL3!).

With FOSS tools, some are just as amazing as their non-FOSS counterparts while others are a little lacking. For example, I think Blender is entirely able to replace Maya and 3DS Max for a hobbyist animator. The same is true for Krita replacing Photoshop for illustrators. OpenSCAD and FreeCAD are not quite able to replace Solidworks for engineers.

I have very limited pattern making experience so I’m not a great judge for pattern making software. If cloth simulation is critical, then Valentina needs a lot more features to be able to compete with CLO3D. If cloth simulation isn’t super necessary, maybe Valentina would make an adequate substitute.

Either way, I’m loving learning about the ecosystem around sewing and making clothes. Sewing is a craft that dates back to ancient days and has neat jargon (like armscye). At the same time it’s been really modernized with the industrial clothing supply chain. It also has a fascinating digital component, like the transformation from flat pattern making to pattern making software.

It’s so cool!

I recently picked up sewing as another pandemic hobby. When making my first cami, I realized I needed a loop turner for turning straps inside out. Not having one on hand, I searched for good substitutes. YouTube suggested using chopsticks, safety pins, and bobby pins. Unfortunately, none of them worked.

Harry suggested I use a zip tie. I was initially skeptical but zip ties worked great! You can sew one end to the head of the zip tie and pull without worry!

diy loop turner

Posting this for anyone else who’s too impatient to wait for a loop turner.

Here are the steps I use to cast a fish keycap. If you’re completely new, see the Z-Butt wiki and my older blog post.

petri fish at an angle

First I cast a bottom piece. Thanks to the Z-Butt community, I learned to get the petri effect, you need to wait for about 1-2 hours before adding in alcohol ink to the resin. Here I waited for 1.5 hours.

alcohol ink

After the bottom piece is cured, I add a polymer clay fish. I use acrylic paint to add details and dab a dollop of resin to secure the fish to the base. When everything looks dry, I invert it to cast the top piece.

WIP keycap

That’s it!