My sister Susie and I both began knitting at very early ages. We were taught by our mum and our nanny and were continually inspired by our grandmother. Growing up as young crafters in Kenya, it was common to find locally spun wool. When my sister and I returned home after spending several incredibly inspiring years in New Mexico, we saw a flood of imported and synthetic yarns saturating the Kenyan market. Through Provisions Kenya, we are determined to share the importance of sourcing local fibers for crafting.
Our mission is to find area craftspeople who share our passion for the natural fiber arts, as well as those determined to reinvigorate this important trade. We believe that handmade goods add a much-needed spark of joy and value to life. All of our wool yarn is sheared, processed, and spun in Kenya. We are passionate about wool and have extended our line to include handmade wool comforters, sheepskin slippers, and rugs. We also have a line of hand-carved knitting needles and crochet hooks made from sustainable jacaranda tree wood.
Our Rift Valley Yarn is the flagship product for Provisions Kenya, and we spent months researching and connecting with farmers and spinners to create this unique yarn. Our wool is seasonally sheared from sheep raised in the Rift Valley as well as on private farms in the foothills of Mount Kenya. Brought by the bale to Nairobi, the wool is handcarded, spun, and dyed by an admirable cooperative of women. We’re proud to bring this product to our customers.
Our future plans include adding unique notions, such as locally made stitch markers, natural moth repellent made with pure essential oils, and yarn-storage bags. Once plans are complete on our fiber-arts center, we want to offer customers the option to buy roving, raw wool, spindles, and looms. We have also been encouraging our spinners to forage for plants that are effective natural dyes, and we have been meeting with a silkworm farmer and cotton growers with plans to incorporate those fibers into our yarn selection.
We enjoy embroidery, so we’ve worked with a local artist to develop a custom embroidery kit, featuring a beautiful pattern of the national bird of Kenya. We plan on expanding this line of kits to include other flora and fauna found in the region.
We have been lucky to connect with farmers and artisans who convey that the orders we make for wool and yarn have directly impacted their small businesses. With our partnership, they have been able to hire additional team members, improve on equipment and systems, and most importantly, have a stream of incoming revenue during the difficult and uncertain times of this COVID-19 pandemic.
One exciting new partnership for us is with a local community that encourages sustainable sheep farming to preserve wild pasture that is a habitat for birdlife. Rather than converting the pasture to farmland, farmers are encouraged to leave it wild for sheep to graze, and rare birds are able to nest and cohabit the land in turn.
Another new project on the horizon is working with local women who have recently been released from prison. Often, they are unjustly accused, imprisoned without a chance for a fair trial. Once released, they face insurmountable stigmas for having served time. We are in the process of creating a fiber-arts training center to employ women and men from all walks of life, offering a safe and healthy place of work.
In addition, we have created a curated Wool Safari, offering a hands-on glimpse of key fiber-art trails around the country. Safari guests are offered a chance to visit with shepherds and their sheep, tour scenic pastures, and spend time with spinners and weavers to offer insight into the skill and talent used in making wool products.
For more information about Provisions Kenya, visit provisions.co.ke.
This article was published in the Spring 2021 issue of Spin Off.