Solid Waste – Simple Solution

Road from Marigat

Yesterday, I drove home from Nairobi. The trip passes over what surely must be some of the worst roads in Kenya. There’s not much worse for cars than broken tarmac, and that’s what the road is like between Marigat and home.

Suddenly, I knew what we could do with the solid waste in Kampi ya Samaki! We can use it to build new roads!

Now, the challenge is to find out how to do that. Later, we can work on how to get people in the area to participate in solid waste collection, compaction and use. Very poor, many people in this area will not do anything unless they get paid for doing it.

Gee, maybe I should have that attitude!

US Trip Coming Up Soon!

I’ll be coming to the US in May!

I will first attend the Studio Art Quilt Associates Conference “Capitolizing on Fiber” in Alexandria, Virginia, where I intend to do some serious sightseeing in addition to meeting my colleagues and peers for some hands-on training about how to succeed as a professional textile artist.  With a limited market for my art quilts in Kenya, I need all the help I can get, and it will be great to meet up with good quilting friends!  If you’re an art quilter and want to come along, registration is still possible.  Find all the details on the SAQA site!




My university flat-mate lives in Virginia, so I plan to spend a few days with her and her husband, possibly visiting Monticello while I’m in that area.  It will be a real treat to step back into history given my long-standing interest in genealogy, as well as having time to catch up with good friends.

From there I’ll go to Las Vegas to visit family.  Vegas is not my idea of a pleasant place to be, but it will be great to see loved ones I have not seen for a year!  I’ll come back, then, to Kentucky for more family/friend visits, a bit of shopping probably and taking care of some personal business there.

Finally, I will travel north to Columbus, Ohio – just in time to catch the National Quilt Association 2014 Show, May 23-25, where I will teach and lecture.




At the NQA Show, I will be teaching Darned Quilts, Goodbye to the Grid, and two sessions of Fuss-Free and Seamless Bindings, my two methods of binding quilts entirely by machine!  My lecture will be the popular and highly instructive “World of Color: A Lay Introduction to Color Physics for Patchwork Quilters.”

As a quilt judge myself, though, I expect to pick up a few pointers from the experience of being at the NQA Show.  Those folks are professional in their approach and they have developed many of the guidelines under which I gained certification from the South African National Quilters’ Guild in 2011.

Everyone will attend the NQA 2014 Show, of course, for the fabulous exhibition, but the workshops are my area of concern.  Instructions for registering for workshops have been given to me by Linda Miller, NQA 2014 Show Director:

The new website and online registration is ready for you. This is how it works –

1) Go to

2) Use the button under Quick Links called ‘Quilt Show’

3) Use the button under Workshop Info called ‘Register Here’

4) Fill out the information, and click on the choices of the classes you are interested in. A full class will be indicated automatically, and the system will prevent you from overbooking (trying to sign up for conflicting times) automatically as well. All of the highlighted fields (teacher names and class names) are links that you can use to get more details, and the supply lists are available through those boxes, too. Have fun, and when you are ready, your registration shows up at the bottom, your total is there, and you choose the ‘register’ button to complete this step and go to the checkout!

5) From the checkout, you can increase the number of dinners if you would like, or cancel your choices all together and start over, or you can even choose ‘modify’ and the system will take you back to the filled out form on the previous page.

6) Use the online payment system through Paypal to pay by credit card securely. 

This year’s show is truly a special milestone in NQA’s history, and you are an important part of making it so!


What a great trip I have planned, and how wonderful it will be to see people I know and love but usually have so little opportunity to visit as well as to meet new quilters at both the SAQA Conference and the NQA Show!

Come and join me at either or both, won’t you?!


Mud, Glorious Mud

So, I wanted some new fabric, right?  So I bought 28.5 meters of white silk dupioni at what must be a reasonable price in an escalating market.  That means it wasn’t cheap!

Then I bought 6 or 7 packets of dye.  I came home and dyed 24 meters using the dyes and guess what–all the fabrics came out PINK!!

So, I gave the matter some thought and decided to try dyeing (painting, actually) some of these disappointing cloths with mud.  Earth pigments have always appealed to me.  They are indeed my colors as I am an autumn color type, and there’s something so fundamentally earthy about using mud–I love the idea!

So, on my last trip home from Nairobi, I stopped several places along the road and collected some soil specimens.  I had a great time doing this, making up a fictitious story about being a visiting geologist from some obscure oil or diamond company looking for the right soils to indicate that 2000 feet below lay riches beyond belief!

Instead, a couple of fellows took great interest in the notion that mud could be used to color fabrics.  One happy guy even offered me the use of his panga (that’s not a dirty word; it’s a machete) to chip some stubborn clay out of a bank.

I could see their minds working, “I must run straight home and tell my wife that she should be dyeing fabric with mud!”  I did impress upon these fellows that they would need cow’s milk or soy milk to bind the mud to the cloth.  It should not surprise me, then, next time I go to Nairobi, to see lengths of mud-painted cotton cloths waving from clotheslines along the sides of the highway, right?!

Cleaning soil
Cleaning soil–the cup is for my coffee; all else is for washing dirt

Anyway, I brought my soil samples home and set to work cleaning them.  A somewhat messy business that reminded me very much of my years working with ceramic clays, the job was one that took me away from the computer and let me work in the out-of-doors–I loved it!!

So, I washed the dirt and sieved it with a fine plastic sieve, let it settle in plastic ice cream tubs (that was good, too!), and then poured off the excess water.

Tubs of clean dirt drying in the sun
Tubs of clean dirt drying in the sun


Now, two days later, the soils are really drying out, having been left out in the hot sun (jua kali).  The colors are lighter than they were when the soil was wet, but still they are indeed the colors of Africa!!

Dried dirt samples
Dried dirt samples

The red on the right is from Nairobi, and the orange on the left is from Limuru, higher above Nairobi.  It was drifting down through the red iron oxide (?) of the lower lands.  See the set of four colors together just to the right of center?  That was my comparison of browns–quite a range!  The near white was the toughest to clean; I had to pound it with my hammer.

I just love getting down and dirty!!  😉

Next step:  soaking the soy beans!  Read more . . .


International Teaching in the US 2014

I have completed traveling for this year, having taught at Taupo Symposium in New Zealand and passing through Australia on my way there and back.  I thoroughly enjoyed being back in the classroom.  Many thanks to all those who helped make that trip possible and productive!

Dena Crain's Quilt Design Workshops
Dena Crain’s Quilt Design Workshops

My plans for traveling and teaching next year include a visit to the US in May in time to catch the SAQA Conference in Washington, D.C., and in November to the Middle East.  If you are situated in either place, or anywhere along the way between there and Nairobi, Kenya, and would like to have me visit your guild or festival to teach, please use the contact form in the right hand sidebar to email me.  I’m sure we can work out some arrangement.  Thanks!

“Out of Africa” Opens in Canada

The “Out of Africa” quilt festival opened in London, Canada, earlier this week. It features the Patchwork Promises quilts from last year’s Irish quilt festival, work by the Tentmakers of Cairo courtesy of the American Quilter’s Society, some 130 quilts from the Kenya Quilt Guild, a collection of wonderful pieces from the Harare Patchwork and Quilting Guild in Zimbabwe, the Major Minors collection of 10″ square fine art pieces from FibreWorksArt in South Africa and much more.

Some quilts and products sold before the show even opened, and trade has been brisk for the last couple of days. With late evening openings tonight and tomorrow night, we anticipate even larger crowds of visitors. Don’t miss this great chance to see some of the finest patchwork quilting from the Dark Continent. Who knows when you will have such a unique opportunity again?!!