Needles and Crafts

Unlike the U.S., where curtains, drapes and blinds stay with a property, in Zambia you often have to buy or have made all of your window dressings yourself.  And, they’re not cheap.  Just one window dressing can cost between $60-100 (for the fabric alone) with cheapo pre-made curtains bought from Game (the Target equivalent here).  I was in luck, because curtains and Halloween costumes are the two things I know how to sew, so all I had to do was find a sewing machine to borrow and I could make my own and save a lot of money.  Fortunately, one of the first couples we met here had a sewing machine so I picked it up, went to Kamwala (kind of like a downtown swapmeet where many of the stores are owned by Indians) and bought some fabric, and came home and started sewing.

Within five minutes I broke the first needle, then the second, then my last needle.  Good grief! What was I going to do now?  I was worried I had broken this borrowed sewing machine.  What else would account for the constantly breaking needles?

Off of Leopard’s Hill Road, between our home and Crossroads in town, there’s a sign that says “Needles & Crafts.”  It’s probably only a mile and a half away from us so I thought I’ll go there and see if they have sewing machine needles.  My noggin was working that day because I brought the broken needles with me so I could get exact matches.

Like many cottage industries in Zambia, one can just decide one day “I think I’ll open a store here,” put up a sign, and voila! There’s a store on their property.  I’ve seen signs announcing restaurants, bookstores, furniture stores, car shops, framing places, etc., posted at the front of someone’s house.  You just turn into their drive and there you are, at their store.

Well, that’s exactly what Needles and Crafts is like.  It’s on a dirt road across from a dairy.

(This is the scene if you’re standing in Needles and Crafts’ driveway looking across the street.)






Driving there from our house I passed many beautiful blooming trees like this one.  (Remember, it’s spring here, equivalent to your May.)









I’m coming from a dirt road on the east side of the “store.”  If you continue down this dirt road you’ll hit the paved Leopard’s Hill Road.











Per the norm in Zambia, you drive up to the gate and honk until someone opens the gate for you.








I pulled into the very small driveway (could probably hold only three cars max) and there was the garage…er…store. Though the hours are posted very clearly outside as being 9 am – 1 pm and then some hours in the afternoon, and though it was about 11 am, I was told the Madame was out running errands and would be back soon, so I had to sit in my car and wait for the owner to come.  (This has happened to me a few times.  The second time occurred despite my calling and saying I’d be right there.  The owner never let on that she wasn’t yet at the store and showed up about five minutes after me.  Being a Protestant-raised punctual American I got all bent out of shape as I had things to do!  But, one lesson everyone learns in Africa is that openings and closings or appointment times are suggestions or rough estimates, give or take a few hours.)  Here is the store all closed up.

And, here’s what’s behind those metal doors.  Lots of very nice fabrics (including upholstery, drapery and just regular fabrics)…









And anything you could want for sewing including zippers…


































…and of course, needles!  I showed the owner my broken needles and she said that I was using too thin a gauge for thick drapery fabric.  I was so relieved that I hadn’t broken the machine, it was my needles that were the problem!  Sure enough, not a single needle broke after using the right gauge.

So, Needles and Crafts is a great resource for those who live in this ex-pat-y area of town and who don’t want to drive into Kamwala.  I went there this week because I wanted to make cheese and needed cheesecloth.  They didn’t have any of that but the owner said that the cheesemakers who came to her used butter muslin instead.  I thought that would work just fine because all of the cheese recipes say to use 4-5 layers of cheesecloth and one layer of butter muslin looked to be about equivalent to 4-5 layers of cheesecloth.

Next post: Adventures in rennet-less (not by choice!) cheesemaking!


About Kimm X Jayne

Gravatar Photograph from the exceptionally talented Ben Heine.
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11 Responses to Needles and Crafts

  1. Maureen Witte says:

    So do we get to see how the curtains turned out??

  2. Brooke Goode says:

    this is good to know. my friend scoured manda hill and couldn’t find brown thread!

  3. kim says:

    Hi Kimm,
    I just met you briefly at the commissary today, and thought I’d revisit your blog, its great. If you ‘d like I have a bottle of liquid vegetarian rennet (not sure what cheese making you are doing but it works for my needs) if you want. I’ll be out of town for the week but after afterwards.

    • Kimm X Jayne says:

      Hi Kim — it was great meeting you! I would be MOST grateful to borrow the rennet. Here’s my email: Thanks again! Kimm

      • Lesley Beale says:

        Hi, I’m new in Lusaka, and just came across your blog, it’s fabulously full of useful info, did you ever find out if it is possible to buy Rennet in Lisaka, I am keen to try making mozzarella ! Thanks ! Lesley

        • Kimm X Jayne says:

          Hi Lesley! No, I never did find rennet (my son brought me some on a visit). Too bad I didn’t get this two days ago – my husband left yesterday and is on his way there and I have extra! In the new little shopping complex on Leopard’s Hill right before Kilimanjaro Hotel (Omni Color? or something like that), the store on the right as you enter often carries Mozzarella – they might be able to link you up with whoever makes it. Other than that my husband is making a trip there in March & I could send some with him. Good luck! (and don’t overwork the ball or it’ll be hard, more like provolone!)

  4. Anonymous says:

    I am doing a full make over for my TV room and so something quite exciting over the internet. I have been to most fabric shops in Lusaka looking for burgundy upholstery material and a unique nice blue to go with the burgundy. Would you have this sort of upholstery in stock


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