Sunday, 11 March 2012

Gaborone, Botswana: Now with 100% more fabric shopping.

I'm back!  Two days of travel to get to Botswana from Montreal + three days of work +  ten days o' vacation in Gaborone and Cape Town + two days of travel back home =  tired but happy sewintist.

There was time for some fabric shopping (while my men when off to wait in a bar).  Since I had a hell of a time trying to get some information about the best places to shop for fabric in Gaborone and came up totally blank, I'll post what I managed to find, in case any of you happen to find yourself in Gaborone with a free afternoon:

The first shop we visited, and one of the best:  Matseleng Fabrics (and "Sawing Machines and Herbedashery") on the south-east corner of the African Mall, behind the building that houses the Nando's and the National Bank.  Their selection of shwe shwe was quite impressive.  Aside from the traditional blue, brown and red, they had some newer fashion colourways: violet, green, pink...even orange.  Or is that tangerine tango?

The young man on the left (Bruce) was too shy to have his photo taken, but he was a great help.  We started chatting about the fabrics, and it turns out he is studying fashion design and helped me pick some prints, estimate yardage needed, match zips, etc.  They had some vintage Singers (including a few hand crank models) for sale, but he quietly lamented the prices.  They were all refurbished and working well, but 999 Pula (about $135) is a bit steep around here. 

My son picking some buttons, and wearing his Instant Dashiki I made last summer.
 
Next up:  Timba Trading, on the west side of the African Mall.  This was another Indian owned shop, not as friendly as Matseleng, but with an even larger selection of shwe shwe, and a wider variety of cottons, rayons and synthetics.  


They didn't really like me taking photos, so I did it surreptitiously.   (And blurrily, apparently.)  You can also see some kangas hanging from the ceiling; they were about 35-40P if I remember correctly.

About 1/4 of their blue shwe shwe.  They also had all the other colours too.  Oooooo, so much shwe shwe....

On another day, we had a vehicle and I managed to find Sismo, which is on the corner of Nelson Mandela and Independence Boulevards.  They were crowded, but I can't say I was really impressed.  The store was huge, but the selection wasn't much better than I had found at the African Mall shops.  And boy, were they unfriendly.  They should have just had a huge sign that said, "Buy something quickly or get the hell out of our store".  Sheesh. 
 I guess this is the go-to shop for household fabrics and curtains though, if you judge by the number of expats buying dull beige curtain panels in the back. 
 Basic cottons and blends section.

A few interesting wax prints, but the prices weren't any better than I can get back home on rue St. Hubert, to be frank.  (That's a colleague of mine, by the way, but she didn't end up buying anything either).  Next door was Fabric Paradise, but it seemed a bit empty when we visited.  I'm not sure what their usual selection is, but it may be worth visiting at another time. 

So here's the haul:

Traditonal shwe shwe, all at 47P/meter (~$7/m):  3m of brown/yellow, 2m of green/ brown circles and 1m of green/brown  polygons (what would you call those shapes?).  I plan to use the green/brown fabrics together, with the polygon print as contrast for pockets, cuffs or skirt panels.  I've seen a lot of shwe shwe used in this way (alternating skirt panels especially), so I think I'll be able to pull it off. 

 2m of a modern pop-arty shwe shwe, 1m of the Madiba border print (all they had left in stock - boo!  After washing shrinkage, 1m isn't quite enough to go around my hips...what to do?!), and 0.8m of this somewhat garish Venda print that my son had to have.  Not quite sure what that will become, but he was quite adamant that he needed it. 

I also had a moment of weakness and picked up some non-traditional fabrics as well:
2.5m of tie-dyed rayon. I have a hard time finding rayons in Montreal, and this will make a good summer maxi dress. 

3m of synthetic blends.  They don't have the nicest feel on the skin, but the colours are amazing.  And hard to capture on camera.  The burnt orange is a shot fabric, so it varies between dark brown and bright orange depending on the angle of  light, while the purple is shot with black.  Much nicer than they look here, believe it or not.  (Again, I have to get a better camera....)

After leaving Botswana, we flew home via Cape Town so we could spend a few days in one of my favourite cities in the world.  Seriously, can somebody offer me a job here for a year or two?  I didn't do any fabric shopping in Cape Town because as it turns out, I have to go back in a few weeks to clear up some problems with the screening program there.  (We half considered changing my return ticket so I could just stay there and do the work, but I had to get home to take care of some of my own research.  And see my daughter who was having a hard time being parentless for two weeks and started biting everyone around her.  Toddlers certainly know how to express their emotions, don't they?)

Me and my son at the V&A waterfront, Cape Town, with Table mountain in the background.  My Good Morning Starshine Tunic got quite a bit of wear (and a few compliments) on this trip!
Good to be back and have a long hot shower, but I don't think I'll have any sewing time before I leave town.  I did take a lot of me-made things along on this trip, and wore them more than anything else.  It's great to reach that stage of sewing where everything works, isn't it?


21 comments:

  1. Wow--looks like some great fabric store selections in Botswana! I would so love to visit Cape Town. They are doing amazing research in my field...hmmm...You'll have to highlight some of the shopping places in Cape Town when you go back! Oh, and I love that Nelson Mandela print...too bad they only had 1m!

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    1. There are apparently lots of other fabric shops in town, but these were the only ones I had time to explore. As it is, I think I have enough fabric to tide me over for a bit!
      Cape Town is a very cool city; arty, sporty, foodie....fantastic seasides, great wines, wild spaces close at hand. You should totally see if you can swing a conference or a collaborative visit to C.T. because I think it's one of those cities that couldn't bore anyone!

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  2. Oh Wow!!!! You are so fortunate to be in a line of work that offers travel to places around the globe. Cape Town sounds really interesting, and I think it was one of the top 5 cities for people to emmigrate to (read on Yahoo a little while ago!)

    Those shwe shwe fabrics sound interesting, and I love the blues. It must be neat to check out fabric shops in other countries.

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    1. I worked a lot of crappy jobs before I fell into this one, about 3 years ago. This research project actually ends in December (Boo!), but we're scrambling to find some more funding to continue working with our teams in Botswana and South Africa. My boss hates to travel, so he is happy to send me whenever needed!

      The last time I was in Gaborone was 3 years ago, and I wasn't really into sewing at that time. I'm glad I got the chance to scout out all these shops this time around. For fabric shopping, nothing beats Asia though: India, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam have all stuffed my closets with silks!

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  3. but the fact that your son needed that fabric is kind of AWESOME.

    this was like going with you!

    (and although this is parenthetical, I AM DYING OVER SEWINTIST.)

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    1. I think if you had come shopping with me there would have been a whole lot more bags coming back on the plane with me!

      (I can't remember where I first read "sewintist". It was in someone's comments....no idea, but I thought "that's me".)

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  4. This post was AWESOME. I love seeing all the different patterned fabrics you picked up!! Your creations are going to be such a great reminder of your trip - I think I may try fabric shopping the next time I'm out of the country and hopefully I'll find some fabric pieces as fabulous as yours!

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    1. I've always bought fabric when travelling, but didn't start using it for actual sewing until recently. Mostly they ended up as sofa covers or scarves...

      I have to go to SF for work, so I'm hoping it will coincide with the Sew Weekly swap / meetup next week. I'm trying to massage the planning schedule ;)

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  5. What a fantastic post! Not only on the sewing front, although the hawl looks good. I am in love with all those blues.

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    1. It was impossible to choose a favourite; if you hesitate, all is lost and you'll end up buying everything! That's why I tried to stick to the other colours, because the choice was more limited (and because I splurged on blue last time....)

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  6. Awesome post - I am so glad we have connected. I was hoping to go to Gaborone this year for my 40th birthday trip, but we have to postpone it for one year or so. I am a huge fan of the Detective Agency books and love African textiles. My colleague recently brought me back some yardage from a Ghanian fabric shop "woodin"

    http://www.woodinfashion.com/fabrics.php

    I look forward to seeing what you create with all that goodness.

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    1. Let's keep in touch re: Gaborone. I guess you were planning to go on safari up in the delta? I haven't been because the last time I was in Botswana, I was 35 weeks pregnant (and didn't want to take anti-malarials), and this time, I had my 6 year old with me (and didn't want him to have to take anti-malarials)! Next visit, I plan to go alone (and not pregnant), so I can go on a research trip up to Maun, crossing the salt pans on the way. I hope!

      I tried to find the set where the Detective Agency was filmed, but I couldn't find the site at Kgale Hill. Perhaps it's been taken down, or perhaps I was just driving around the wrong side of the hill.... ;)

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  7. Drool, darn it - another travel destination to add to my list. Those fabrics are so great. I love the two green ones and the blup pop art one the best. I am off to Bali next year - apparently there is an amazing fabric shop there - and I plan to get some beyootiful batik - look out! And I can totally forgive you for buying synthetics - there is something magical about shot fabrics!

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    1. I haven't yet been to Indonesia, although I know I would go _totally_ bonkers for the batiks. I have a bit of an addiction.

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  8. oh how i envy you for african travels.. and for owning so many beautiful fabrics.. i think your son would be one great shopping buddy for me :) we both love some crazy prints, and we just need to have them

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    1. It was a toss up for him between an animal print upholstery fabric or this Venda print. I figured this one would be more likely to get made into something!

      and next time we're in the Balkans, I'll be sure to set you two up for a fabric shopping date ;)

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  9. In a word.... JEALOUS. To be honest, I've never heard of shwe shwe before but wowee, I'm a convert! I just bought some BEAUTIFUL fuschia wax prints in Toronto but to be IN AFRICA buying these prints must have been such a trip. Literally! I'm actually quite impressed with your restraint! (and thank you SO much for the Ronda Bly link. I'm totally going to go to one coming up. Let me know if you want an estate sale buddy!)

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    1. I'm keeping my eye out for any listings they do that include fabric / dressmaking, but they haven't had any for a few months. The last big one I went to turned out to be a quiltmaker's house, and she had a whole bookshelf of quilting books, so I didn't get much. I'll let you know!

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  10. Good day - can you perhaps tell me if you have vilene for sale there in Gabs?

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    1. Ummm, no sorry. I'm in Canada. Try the shops I listed above; they may have some.

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  11. I read your article on Gaborone fabrics.Thanks for the information as I find it interesting as I am planning to open a fabric shop in Gaborone...


    By the way Gaborone is my Home City!!!!!!

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