Saturday, 29 June 2013

Quilting in Nairobi

This post is dedicated to my quilting friends. To my midwife friends, hang in there! More for you soon.

As some of you know I've been a quilter for a very long time, and when something is an intrinsic part of you, it is always with you. It’s like being a midwife, you always notice the baby that is breastfed, you see the mother walking at the shops with the symphasis pubis dysfunction or the OP position. It’s just something that IS. So it is the same with quilt makers, we see patterns and designs where you might not notice anything. We are always on the lookout for the next idea, pattern, thread or fabric.

So it is no surprise that quilt making has been part of this adventure. Read right to the start of this blog and you see the quilt that was raffled as a fund raiser for FreMo. You’ll also notice the occasional post about the project I am working on here, in my spare time. I will never be bored if I have some stitching to do.

all the centre blocks finished and laid out
started the yellow border
just need to sew them together in this order

Before I left Australia, I made contact with the Nairobi Quilters Guild, and a lovely lady named Gretchen. Once I was here we planned to get together for the NQG meeting in June. They meet once per month and I missed the May meeting by the skin of my teeth, and I will miss the July meeting because I am attending the ICM East African Conference. Love those tax deductable CPD points.

So Gretchen and I agreed to meet early on Thursday morning so she could take me to the meeting. But I have to move back a step. The story starts on Wednesday as the two days melted into one.

Molly arrived with Flora in early stages of labour late in the afternoon. (names have been changed) This was her second baby, so we didn’t expect too much trouble. Good on Molly, we didn’t get too much trouble and the labour was text book. She worked hard, she moved, she swayed and she took on the suggested movements to help that baby out. She was the model patient. The only issue was Molly has HIV. At least we knew that this mother was positive. Some mothers come in, without any antenatal care and we don’t know. We have the facilities to perform the tests, but not in the middle of the night.

Molly had done the best she knew how and was taking her medications to decrease the viral load in her system so that it reduced the chances of transmitting it to the baby, and she had already procured the medicines for her baby. She was prepared. One thing we had to be careful of was that Flora didn’t know of her friends HIV status. So we were silent on the topic. I was glad of my own supply of personal protective equipment, which I used to ensure universal precautions against accidental transmission to me were maintained.  The hospital doesn’t always have everything WE would consider necessary.

The beautiful Charlene Michelle was born at 0240hrs in the morning. Isn’t she just lovely??

Sometimes my camera won't focus!
Now my problem was I had to meet with Gretchen in just over five hours. We waited for the placenta, no active management here. We started to tidy up. But by 0300, I suggested to Phillip that he take over, and I headed off to bed. He was happy for that so by the time I hit the sack it was 0330. I set my alarm for 0700 but my body clock wasn’t going to let that happen. I was awake by 0600. I figured if I went back to sleep I would probably sleep all day. If I did wake at 0700, I would probably feel worse, so I got up.

Molly and Charlene were sleeping comfortably when I went round to the hospital. I greeted them and Molly was just so thrilled with herself. I had a quick breakfast and scooted off to find a matatu to take me to the meeting point. It wasn’t hard and I was early so ordered a double cappuccino in an attempt to arm me for the day.

Gretchen arrived and we did the trip the long way round because it was quicker. Nairobi traffic is just shocking. I got a good look at parts of Nairobi that were new to me, and I’ve decided that I would never be able to drive in that traffic. The quilters were very hospitable and made me feel welcome and at home. There was a sales table to enjoy, but I didn’t buy anything. Some ladies were leaving the country and were selling parts of their fabric stash. But from the prices on the fabrics, I gather that the American prints are very expensive here, because their ‘bits’ were still fairly expensive. The library was well stocked and I even saw some Australian Patchwork and Quilting magazines ( none that I was in tho!!!).  The tea and coffee was already set up so I grabbed another, and the first biscuit I’ve had in over a month and settled in with my Apple Core quilt.

The meeting was typical and I sat patiently waiting for show and tell. The ladies all brought something and I was surprised to find that there wasn’t a lot of what might be interpreted as African influence… but there was some. At the end of show and tell I found out that they had just staged a large exhibition somewhere in Canada, so there were a lot of the African design quilts over there. The slide show of the exhibition was fabulous.

Luckily, the meeting finished at lunch time, and I was taken home again where I promptly went to bed! Thanks to the Nairobi Quilters Guild for your hospitality and to Gretchen for the lift. But don’t worry girls, there is definitely fabric shopping going on, and you’ll have an opportunity to see it when I get back.

And here are some pictures of quilts!!!


  1. Your quilt is looking great! I love the yellow border. Loving reading about your adventures.

  2. love your posts Michelle, keep them coming.