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Table cloth embroidery, a forgotten art

The forgotten art of needlework and embroidery of table clothes, which used to be popular way of earning income among women, but started dwindling with the introduction of embroidery machines and leather sofa sets, is now making money for younger women who have picked up the skill in Nakuru city.

Speaking during an interview with KNA at her shop, Mary Natulele said, she learnt the sewing ability through apprenticeship from her mother and it never occurred to her that it would become her major income because she perceived it as a mere hobby.

However, two years ago, her son encouraged her to try selling the table clothes she had made in the city and to her utter surprise, the demand was overwhelming from both men and women who claimed they had been looking for them after supermarkets stopped selling them due to low demand.

Ms Natulele said she sells a set for a three-seater sofa set at Sh3, 000- and seven-seater at Sh5, 000. “What has given my work an edge is scarcity of embroidery work in the country because after posting it on my social media networks, orders have been streaming in from all over the country,” she said.

A buyer at her shop, Tabitha Akinyi, said spreading table clothes on seats has been a quintessential and typical look of local sitting rooms until the onset of leather seats, that were treated as a status symbol due to the higher prices and many families would not fathom covering their classy assets.

However, Ms Akinyi said when the imported leather seats started peeling off, a number of families reverted to the locally made seats, and due to their design and material, and they are easier to cover.

The needlework embroidery was introduced in the country by the missionaries’ wives, who took time to teach the converted Christian women the art and from the 1960s it became a typical look of local homes.

By Veronica Bosibori


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