Sewing A Future
Changing Times – Kibera – Kenya
The Sewing Room looks like it could belong in a museum that is staging a display akin to the 40’s, almost pre typing school. The machines are old, many of which could be sold as antiques in the States. I am pretty sure I have one very similar to the Swan machine that is a favorite of one of the girl students that used to be my grandmother’s or great grandmother’s. I am not sure.
Everything is manually powered. The machines are inlayed in wooden tables with an iron foot peddle and iron wheel. All are connected by a thin leather strap that moves the needle when your feet go to work. The teacher is a pro at using this equipment and can control it all with one bare foot and one hand. The one other student in the room today uses both feet to keep the rhythm going that is needed for an uninterrupted line of stitching.
I find that I am the same, actually worse. I am used to using my right foot to control an automatic foot pedal and no hands except to guide the fabric. I learn, quickly, that I need the use of both feet, both hands, and a lot more rhythm than I am used to exerting to even get it all going and keep it going.
I was excited to see that one of Changing Times vocational studies for adults was sewing classes. There are about seven sewing tables set up for use, though after observing for two days, I am not sure how many actually work efficiently. The teacher is there everyday. Sadly, I came on two of the slowest days of the week for student turn out. By Thursday and Friday people are off doing other work, shopping or playing sports. Between both days I saw two different students return.
The first day I saw one girl (the one who favored the Swan) finish off a purse she had been working on for a while. If I was not at the beginning of the trip and could lighten my backpack load a bit, I would have offered to buy it from her. The purse had zebra accents on it and I could definitely see my mother carrying it around and showing it off.