Hope this finds you well? We had a wonderful trip to the Victoria Falls to celebrate my husband’s 60th birthday, and thought I would share some of the highlights with you. I have been to the Falls several times but it never fails to amaze me – this time was no exception as there was an astounding amount of water coming over the Falls, the most in 10 years. We got very wet, but it was spectacular!
We stayed at Illala Lodge which is the most wonderful hotel overlooking the Falls and the game sometimes wander up onto the front gardens – if you ever get to go there this is the place to stay. Although the the town of Victoria Falls is vibrant with tourist activity and Illala is right on it’s doorstep, it is a little haven away from all the hustle and bustle of life in Africa. We were waited on hand and foot and the breakfast buffet and dinner was awesome – best thing about it did not have to cook!
We treated ourselves to high tea at the Grand Victoria Falls Hotel – so full of history one feels as though time has stood still. My Mum & Dad had not visited the Falls in 20 years and loved seeing it again, it bought back many memories especially for my Dad who had stayed at the Victoria Falls Hotel as a child with my Grandparents and was able to impart stories reminiscent of those early days.
The highlight of my trip was that I got to run a little workshop with some of the locals. Some weeks ago I was contacted by Gail van Jaarsveldt, the owner of Elephant Walk shopping centre at Victoria Falls.
She told me the story of an Embroidery group in a rural location a few hours from the Falls, who for many years had been stitching items like tea clothes, table runners and handbags for sale to supplement their incomes. This co-operative had been run by a lady who had taught them to do embroidery, but passed on a few years back and Gail had discovered three of the members trying to keep the co-op alive – sitting in their homes stitching on little pieces of scrap fabric, with old needles and whatever thread they could lay their hands on.
She wanted to revive the group and was asking for my help. She had bought my book Whitework With Colour and felt they could use some of the designs as inspiration for stitching embroidery designs with an African flavour, which she would then market from her shopping centre in the Falls.
I send donations of thread, needles and hoops and she managed to obtain some suitable cotton fabric for them to begin work. I was invited to see their work and assist them in getting started on their embroidery, when I visited the Falls. There were two ladies who did the stitching and an artist who created the designs for them. I was amazed to find that he drew each design freehand with a pencil, straight on to the fabric as did not know that you could draw one design and transfer it repeatedly using a light source such as a window! I discussed with him ways to design an outline for embroidery and some useful ideas for finished items for sale.
The ladies had only a basic knowledge of stitches so I was able to demonstrate, long & short stitch, satin stitch, dot and split stitch and show them how they could incorporate them into their designs. We also covered all the basics like how to mount your fabric in a hoop (they had never used hoops) and how to keep it clean whilst stitching. They had been using old sewing needles that were the wrong size, bent and a little rusty so you can imagine their delight at being given a proper, new needle to work with! They were absolutely engrossed, and so appreciative of every little bit of help. It was a truly humbling experience for me, I loved it, and would liked to have spent more time with them but sadly we had to leave the next day to come back to Cape Town.
It made me realize how fortunate we are to have access to basic embroidery tools and such beautiful materials at our disposal. It was a sharp reminder of how I had first started embroidery in my home country, Zimbabwe many years ago. I had used sewing cotton in various colours as we could not buy embroidery threads, and how thrilled I was when I purchased my first DMC stranded cotton on a visit to South Africa. I could only afford some shades of pink and green, but I had shades, not just one shade of green, one shade of pink but 3 shades of each! We have come a long way since then but its good to remember your roots occasionally and be grateful for the progress along the way.
Till next time wherever you are in the world, keep smiling and happy stitching.