Saturday, July 07, 2012

Fabric Shopping in Uganda

Every year that I go to Uganda, I spend the first day looking for fabric that I will be using with the ladies.  There are hundreds of designs to choose from, but only a couple of types of fabric to buy.

The woman in this picture is wearing a Kitenge
  1. Kitenge fabric (not sure of the spelling on that!)  This is what I usually buy in Uganda.  It is akin to quilting weight cotton - bad quilting cotton.  When you buy the fabric it has some kind of glaze on it and it is stiff as a board. There is no way to tell the texture of the fabric.  This comes in 6 meter lengths.  Sometimes you get a nicer weight cotton, sometimes it is just bad quilt weight, and sometimes it is as heavy as home dec.  No way to tell.  I think I paid 35000 Ugandan schillings for a length, which is a little less than $15.00.  The woman in the picture on the left is wearing a Kitenge.  These dresses come in lots of styles, but they can be one or two piece and usually fit close to the body in the top half.  They can be sleeveless or short sleeved.
  2. "apron" fabric.  They don't call it that, but that's what they use it for.  The ladies often will wrap this fabric around themselves to keep their dress clean.  This is a lighter weight fabric and usually is polyester or a poly/ cotton blend.  It is usually sold in 4 meter lengths.
  3. Polyester charmeuse.  They use this a lot for the "Gomez" which is the traditional Ugandan dress.  Sometimes you will see the Gomez made from cotton.  The two ladies on the floor in this picture are wearing the Gomez.  You can also see how several of them have the fabric wrapped around like aprons.
  4. poly/cotton broadcloth - they use this to make school uniforms and to line the Kitenges.
  5. On my last visit, there was some silk in one of the shops, but I was already out of money by that point, so I didn't even ask how much it was.  Next year I'll be checking that out.
  6. I didn't have time to look this year, but we also walked by some places with beautiful sequined sari fabrics.  There are a lot of muslim and Indian people in Uganda.

Also, this year, in the city of Kampala, we hit a little fabric heaven.  We found a fabric mall!! I'm not kidding - a whole row of shops (probably 20) of all fabric shops.  This was under the street. I'm definitely going back there next year.  Also, the fabric was only 25000 at one of the shops there, so that would be only about $1.75 a yard.  We did buy some fabric there, but one of the other ladies has it and I don't think she has washed it yet to see what it is like.  Click on these photos to enlarge and see the beautiful fabrics.
The woman on the right helped Bea (the one on the left) pick fabrics for her Gomez.
A little bit of fabric heaven

Most of these fabrics are for Gomez

You can see the Gomez fabric on the left and right.  Kitenge fabrics are farther back in this store

This was my favorite shoe.  Look at all that Kitenge fabric!!

Parting shot - these sweet faces from the village of Busanna


RK said...

I always enjoy reading about your experiences in Uganda. God bless.

Dana said...

I so admire your dedication to this project! My church supports OMNI and many of our members have made the mission trip.

Nancy K said...

What I like about your project and work is that you are teaching a skill that hopefully translates into jobs for these women. What I can't stand is charity that dumps our used clothing in Africa. No long term good comes of this kind of charity.

Dana said...

I definitely agree!

Fromthe13thfloor said...

I love your blog!! I'm leaving for Uganda in a couple of weeks and I would looooove to get some awesome fabrics. Where is the underground mall located?

Nancy Winningham said...

Sorry I didn't reply sooner. Must have missed the comment. I don't remember exactly where it is, but it is in downtown Kampala. If you ask anyone down there, they should know. Have a great trip. We are going again in June.

Dr. Barbie Kay said...

I am in Kampala right now, but leaving soon. I also would like to find the underground fabric mall. I usually buy fabric from a small shop in the Ntinda area, but I will be downtown tomorrow so I thought I would look for the mall.

Nancy Winningham said...

I hope you find it. I'm sure that everyone downtown will know where it is. Just say you're looking for fabric to make kitengues (ka-teng-gays) I wasn't able to go this summer, but am definitely planning on going sometime between next Summer and January 2016

KingdomMinded1 said...

It was such a blessing to stumble on this blog I went to Uganda this past September and I am planning to go back in June. I am looking forward to shopping at this fabric market!Thank you for the info!