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The Kenya Quilt Guild February meeting was centered around education – we want to become better quilters!

This past month Gill Rebelo began a new series for beginners.


Gill Rebelo, Education Officer for Kenya Quilt Guild

Gill Rebelo


Sheryl Fowler taught a strip quilt technique class in her home. Everyone had a great time and learned all about strip piecing.


Sheryl Fowler, Secretary of Kenya Quilt Guild

Sheryl Fowler


We began to sign up for next month’s 2 days class by Dena Dale Crain, “Reflections.” This class will be held at Simba Union 10:00 – 3, 25-26 March. The cost is 4000/=. You may sign up at the next meeting. To reserve your spot, you must pay in full.


Reflections, art quilt class by Dena Dale Crain

Revelation, a Reflections quilt by Dena Dale Crain


We are purchasing a sewing machine to use in our revived workshop. Gill and Sheryl have donated the proceeds from their recent classes.

We are also going to have a jewelry sale to raise money. Go through your collection of jewelry for some items that you are no longer wearing. Bring them to the March meeting and the following meeting, priced and ready for sale. We will have a sale of our jewelry and all money will go to a new Kenya Quilt Guild sewing machine!

Gretchen Sanders demonstrated how to ice dye cloth. The effect is a watery, irregular pattern. Beautiful! We hope you all found the demonstration exciting and you are eager to experiment!


Gretchen Sanders-Mwaura's ice dyed cloth

Gretchen Sanders-Mwaura


Here are Gretchen’s directions:


Ice Dyeing


  • Plastic sheet
  • Newspaper
  • An old washing up bowl
  • A wire mesh that fits over the bowl
  • A small bucket
  • A measuring jug
  • A small yogurt pot
  • Rubber gloves
  • Water
  • Magadi soda ash
  • Dyes (powders)
  • Ice cubes
  • Washed, dried and ironed fabric- americani (cotton muslin), silk



  1. Prepare a soda mix according to how much fabric you have. Use 50g of magadi soda ash to 2L water. Mix well with gloved hands.
  2. Add the washed, dried and ironed fabric and leave soaking for at least 10 minutes.
  3. Remove fabric from the soda mix and wring it gently to remove excess liquid.
  4. Arrange fabric onto the grid. Top with ice cubes.
  5. Gently sprinkle the powdered dyes (you need very little) onto the ice  as you want.
  6. Leave aside and wait for the ice to melt. Leaving even longer will allow the dyes to penetrate more, making them more light- and wash-fast.
  7. Rinse the dyed fabric under cold water until the water runs clear. Dry and iron the ice-dyed fabrics.
  8. Added experiments–thread, tie, knot, use wax or starch resists, etc.
  9. Keep a bag of ice cubes in the fridge- you never know when you might have the urge to dye again!



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The following message has been received by the Kenya Quilt Guild, sent to us by Gail Langton, Chairperson of the Kenya Embroiderers Guild, to inform us of an upcoming sale of the sewing, quilting and embroidery materials and supplies from the estate of recently deceased Rowena Buxton:

We will be holding a sale of Rowena Buxton’s sewing stuff at East African Women’s League Headquarters (WEAL House) on August 9th.  Doors open around 9.30, doors to hall and sale open at 10:00.  Entry cost 50/= will cover the cost of hall hire.  Tea and coffee will be available. 

There will be lots of wonderful things to purchase – please see the list below – so please come along, bring lots of money and spend (change will be appreciated).

The proceeds from this sale will be going to various charities, one of which will be the Flying Doctor Services who valiantly battled to save Rowena’s life on 11th June.  

Goods for sale include:

  • several boxes of books – embroidery and quilting
  • 1 box magazines
  • sewing fabric, some large pieces for dress making and some metres, fat quarters etc. for quilting
  • wool and embroidery threads
  • haberdashery items (rickrack, lace, zips, bias, sewing thread, etc.)
  • sewing gadgets (bias tape maker, etc.)
  • quilting items (wadding, boards, shapes, etc.)
  • frames and hoops–at least 2 freestanding frames
  • cross stitch kits
  • cross stich fabrics (aida, etc.)
  • 2 sewing machines (if interested please contact KQG through the Contact Form in the sidebar at left)
  • tablecloths, cushion covers, gloves, scarves, khangas, small bags, etc. 

There will also be an opportunity to sign up for Mary Hickmott’s Embroidery classes, or to pay the deposit/balance if you have already signed up.

This is just in from our friends at Amani ya Juu:

Amani Ya Juu is holding a fabric scrap sales during this month of May. The scraps include dyed cotton and americana materials, screen print materials and many more.  The sales are on every Wednesdays and Saturdays of the week at the Amani ya Juu shop.

Might be a great place to find scraps of African fabrics at rock-bottom prices!!

Our Chairwoman, Neela Shah, greeted new members and visitors, and was herself welcomed back from her trip to UK for a family wedding. Welcome home, Neela!

Neela reminded the membership that the Annual General Meeting is coming up in April and that volunteers are needed to take on the posts on the Executive Council.  The posts include Officers (Chair and Vice Chair, Treasurer, Secretary and two Members-at-Large) and Delegates (Subcommittee Chairs).  Additionally, a call will be issued for volunteers to serve on the various Subcommittees (Education/Library, Community Outreach and Charitable Works, Newsletter, Advertising and Promotions, Membership and Exhibitions).   The Guild and all its benefits will only exist if members are prepared to offer their services.

Neela further explained that the Kenya Quilt Guild Exhibition is fast approaching:  11th, 12th and 13th of May at the Village Market.  She described the difficulties that the Subcommittee has had in trying to obtain a license for the raffle and that it may not be possible to hold one.  Patty Arensen explained the principle of an alternative ‘silent auction’ for the three raffle quilts.  This could still help to raise money to pay the expenses of the Exhibition and allow the Guild to make the donation to charity that is a feature of the event.  The charities supported include The Dream Project Children’s Home and the Women’s Obstetric Fistula clinic run by AMREF.  Neela had hard copies of the sponsorship letter on hand and a soft copy has been emailed to the membership.  This formal request can be handed to possible sponsors amongst social connections of the membership.

Exhibition “Call for Entry” forms were also ready and Neela asked members to give Kulvinder Birdi an idea of how many quilts they are likely to submit.  The fee is KSh500 per quilt.  Quilts for display should be brought to the meeting on 19th April.  Each quilt must have a sleeve on the back with a rod inserted to facilitate hanging, and a name label attached to the back of the quilt.

Gill then talked about all the upcoming classes including:

  • Bev Rebelo’s machine quilting (whole day, either 9th or 10th May) and a half day course on hand quilting.  She asked the membership to sign up so that she can gauge interest.
  • Sarah Brewin will be teaching her ‘Dancing Ladies’ quilt on 15th May.  Gill explained that Sarah has kindly donated a free place and a kit for the class.  This will be raffled at the April meeting.
  • Gill Rebelo also asked for expressions of interest in Maggie Relph’s classes in the latter part of May.  Some members are already keen to attend the ‘Broken Windows’ course and ‘African Jazz’.
  • Jasvinder Phull displayed her work bag.  She will be teaching its construction on Monday and Thursday of next week at a cost of KSh2,000.  Members were asked to sign up immediately.
  • Gill will continue her classes on hand piecing during the afternoon, after the meeting.
  • Neela encouraged other members to assist with the hand tying of one of the raffle quilts or to simply bring a project along so that the ladies can work companionably together.

Kundan Pattni displayed the new membership cards and was thanked for The Woman Shop’s sponsorship of them.  She reminded us about the loyalty points on offer at The Woman Shop.

Show-and-tell followed with some beautiful items on display.  Eight individuals had prepared ten inch squares with a hand shape on it.  These will be sent to Ireland for the 10,000 greetings quilt at the International Quilt Festival of Ireland.  There was a quick raffle to determine the three winners of the green thread supplied by Jim West, the Exhibition organiser.

Carol Davey showed her shamrock square and cleverly quilted Gloriosa Lily.

Gloriosa Lily

Carol Davey's Quilted Gloriosa Lily for the International Quilt Festival of Ireland

Loise Gitagia has graduated from the beginners’ class and showed her first completed (hand quilted) quilt to a round of applause.  She has now made six bags using the skills she learned in Rhonda Denney’s class.

First Quilt by Loise Gitagia, Kenya Quilt Guild Member

Neela showed the eye-catching African themed bag which she made in Rhonda’s class.  Jasvinder showed her three lovely beach bags.  She had made six from a pattern she found on the internet.

Jasvinder Phull's quilted handbags

Gill showed us her spectacular mitumba quilt!  She has pieced this from second hand blouses she has bought at Gikombaa.  Many were Liberty prints and the whole effect, with black tape between the blocks, was a spring sonnet!

  Jasvinder and Neela then displayed the raffle quilts which have been made by a group of ladies in the Guild.  They were most pleasing and should fetch a fine price in the silent auction at the exhibition.

Patricia Downes, a visitor from UK who formerly lived in Kenya, then showed us some samples of her incredibly intricate and delicate machine embroidery.  She is a member of a craft group in UK and goes to monthly classes with Pauline Ineson.  She is learning to make an heirloom quilt using Pauline’s book, “How to Create an Heirloom Quilt.”  Patricia has acquired some really high level skills which she has put to beautiful use.  There’s lots of homework from the class!

Embroidery by Patricia Downes

Embroidery by Patricia Downes from Pauline Ineson's workshops

Finally Veena showed us some pictures she had taken at the Dubai Quilt exhibition.  Some of the work was of such artistic and skilful brilliance that we were quite flabberghasted!

The last item of the meeting was a talk by Deanna about batting.  This apparently dull stuff that disappears inside a quilt turned out to be really interesting.  Deanna provided samples and lots of fascinating advice about choice of batting for different projects and how batting is manufactured, as well as its material ingredients affect its quilting properties.  She suggested alternatives too – using an old quilt as batting for a new one; using a blanket or flannel or fleece or even thin foam.

The next meeting will be held on 19th April.  It will be our AGM, so please come prepared to vote and volunteer to serve our Guild!

The notes below, about patchwork quilt batting, were given to us to publish by Deanna Gaudaur, a member of the Kenya Quilt Guild.  At the March 2012 meeting, Deanna presented a lecture based on these notes, and most generally offered to share them with us here.  Thank you, Deanna!

What is batting/wadding? It is the middle of your quilt sandwich, or the insulating layer that provides warmth. It also adds dimension/thickness.

How is it held together?

  • Bonded: similar to glue, using starch or resin, some will dissipate with water so you might not be able to preshrink them.
  • Scrim: A gauze, a loosely woven fabric sometimes used to stabilize the fibers
  • Needle punched: Fibers are loosely felted together by a process involving many needles. It is more stable but is harder to needle as it is quite firm. More stability for wall hangings means your quilts don’t droop so much. A word here about needle punched batts: put the batting on the quilt with the needle holes the same way you will quilt.

Each type of batting has a long list of pros and cons.  There is no “right” choice for every quilt and it will take some research to find the best one for your project. But how many hours and how much money have you invested into your quilt? Let’s not just put it together with any old batt!

Before we talk about the types of batting and which one you should use, there is a list of questions which can be asked about each project:


  • What am I making? A baby quilt requiring frequent washing will require a different choice than a large bed quilt. A table runner or placemats will need to be washed frequently and an art quilt will never come near water but might need dry-cleaning.
  • How will I be finishing it? Will it be tied, hand quilted or machine quilted?
  • What kind of look do I want? Puffy? Flat? Highly defined?  Do I want to see the actual quilting stitch line, or do I want the texture and dimension that quilting creates? You might want a soft cuddly bed quilt but more stiffness for a quilted carry-all.
  • How warm should it be, or do I want it to breathe?
  • Will shrinkage matter? Is the quilt’s finished size important? Quilting causes up to 5% shrinkage, then if you wash and it shrinks another 1-4% due to your batting choice, you might be surprised at how small it ends up!
  • Do I want this quilt to feel weighty or light?
  • What price can I afford to pay?
  • What fiber will be best?
    • Cotton: Feels like a thick flannel. It’s a good option for machine quilting because it doesn’t slip around. Generally it must be quilted closely. Cotton shrinks up to 4%, softening the appearance of the quilt and giving it a comfortable look. It can be sometimes prewashed/shrunk if you don’t like that feature. It is low loft, so doesn’t provide much definition to the quilting.
    • Polyester: Less expensive, readily available in Nairobi, and is better for hand-quilting (if it is low loft) because it doesn’t need to be quilted so closely. High loft is best for comforter-like quilts, minimal quilting, or tying. It also holds it shape better, even when washed repeatedly. It resists mold and mildew as well. But negative sides can be the bearding that can occur, particularly if you use a lesser quality fabric or a dull needle. It is slippery when machine quilting, so take care to baste well. It also doesn’t breath well, so people can overheat. But, it can shift, especially when hanging. That being said, the majority of my quilts are done with polyester and my own son wanted the “poofiness”of a poly batt, not the drape of cotton.
    • Bamboo: When I quilted professionally for the year I was in Canada, 90% of my quilting was done on this type of batt. It is very soft/drapeable and easy to use, either by machine or by hand. They are very washable and because the fibers are longer the quilting distance will be greater than in a cotton batt. We think of them as being very organic and environmental because bamboo is a renewable resource, especially when we hear about the world-wide shortage of cotton. However, most bamboo bats are only 50% bamboo and the process by which the bamboo is made into fibers suitable for using is very labour and energy intensive, negating some of the positive image.  Learn more at O Ecotextiles.
    • 80 % Cotton, 20% polyester blends:  This is Hobbs’ best selling quilt batt. I like the lightness of this product, rather than the heaviness of pure cotton. Also it is thin, it has a bit more loft due to the polyester. It is available in Nairobi at The Woman Shop.
    • Other options: Flannel–prewash unless you want shrinkage; old blankets, quilts or used quilt batts; or even polyurethane or rubber foam–available from Nakumatt in the mattress section.  This is ideal for a stiffer project, like placemats, table runners or bags.

Find a helpful batting chart on The Curious Quilter blog.

Jogging our minds may be quite healthy as we look back at the great event of hosting Ricky Tims and Alex Anderson in Kenya back in January 2011.

Looking at one of Ricky’s and Alex’s many video clips gives us a glimpse of how the world has gone high tech. We are glad to be connected and learn the art of cutting fabric stress free using an AccuQuilt die cutter as demonstrated.

The AccuQuilt offers quilters many fabric cutting solutions that help quilters quickly and accurately cut shapes for quilting and fabric crafts.

Would this be the way out when you are too tired to load your pin cushion? Would it also be a good idea for managing your needles when sitting in for long hours at airports between flights?

Thinking out loud after watching this YouTube video about the Prym Needle Twister RedDot Design Winner 2011:

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Find us based in Nairobi, Kenya, happily quilting away. If you're around, look us up. We're always happy to make new quilting friends!
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