Thursday, 18 October 2012

Jembe lako liko wapi?

If you attended a Kenyan school or even went to Sunday school in Kenya you have probably heard some variation of this line:

“Coming to class/church without your pencil/bible is like a farmer going to dig without his jembe*” 

I was always tempted to put up my hand and ask “What if the farmer has a tractor?” But that would probably have landed me a punishment for insolence (insolence in school meant asking a question that a teacher didn't know the answer to or one that nullified a point they were trying to make.  I should add it’s a word I learnt pretty early in life for reasons I need not explain). So I never asked my question and anyway it would have been beside the point. The Point off course not being that farming in Kenya is in need of modernisation but that in order to do a job you need to carry your tools.

So I figured that before I show you some nifty DIY projects I should probably list the jembes/must have items of any crafter. Don’t worry all these items need not be acquired at a go; you may even already own a few tools. Also improvisation is key in our context, you don’t have a clamp= sad but do you have a pile of books or a heavy object you can place on items to stick them together?= #win

Anywho, if you check out many DIY blogs of people living abroad they will mention an array of items that are either not available locally or are known by a different name. E.g. many crafters LOVE burlap and it features heavily in many DIY projects…Burlap in kenyaspeak is gunia. But let me stop rambling and get listing.

No 1 tool of trade….drum roll please

Scissors- good for cutting stuff up with (duh), sometimes act as impromptu tongs/pincers, pliers, hammer, screw drivers you name it. A good scissor is like a ummm (will think of something deep and update this blog entry later). You can get a good pair of scissors in Kenya for anything from Kshs 85/= in Office Mart to Kshs 1800/= in upmarket stores. The one for Kshs 1800/= must be like an automated, telepathic, super-robot, singing pair or something. My advise don’t go too cheap because those might break in a day but there’s no need to break the bank either.

No 2 tool of trade is technically not a tool. If y’all remember what you learnt in woodwork, there is difference between tools and materials; a tool is supposedly not consumable whereas materials get used up. But since writing this blog is like writing my own textbook I’ll call whatever I want a tool.

So No 2 tool is glue…and not just any glue, Wood glue alias PVA glue. Yes you read right. Anyone who took art in high school can tell you this is the King in the craft glue world. It’s white and thick, washes off hands/clothes but sticks things together good and the best part- it dries clear. That is, when dry it’s see-through and colourless, sometimes a bit glossy but that’s not a negative. Wood glue is also cheap and lasts forever- you can buy it from Kshs 100/= in any hardware store or hardware section in most supermarkets. As you can see you can get some in Nakumatt for Kshs 125/=. The price varies off course depending off course the location of the store, size you opt for and the brand.

safety goggles- I use my swimming goggles- improv is the name of the game. To me a must have when working with certain aerosals eg spray adhesive or stuff that could irritate your eyes.

face mask- They sell for Kshs 15/= to 30/= in hardware stores and come in handy when you’re doing your Bane impersonation…not that I do that or anything. (I love you batman). You’ll really appreciate a mask when working with spray paint, at least my lungs do and they show me their appreciation by continuing to work. Hurray lungs!

Kitchen Sponge- Good for cleaning up messes (which you’ll definitely create), applying glue/paint and as a placemat for your cup of tea. Kshs  60/= if you buy the singles. 

Rubber gloves- These are very handy when dealing with glue, paint, glitter, food colour. I presume you do want to have a life outside crafting…don’t you? Walking around with bright blue fingers doesn’t help that. I got my standard issue kitchen gloves for Kshs 70/= at Uchumi but that was a while back. So far the cheapest brand I've seen now is Kshs120/= . With gloves thee are many options so you can probably get a better deal. The gloves that come in the retouch kit? I know Nakumatt used to have a box of gloves (the kind used in hospitals) and you could buy per pair for less than a hundred (will confirm price).

Needle and Thread- Before you turn away in disgust and lecture me on how we went to Beijing so that women everywhere would never have to use these tools of oppression again, let me just say two words to you…Man Bag. We live in a world where men have cooler fashion accessories than us and in many cases are better groomed. I think my needle and thread balances out the chaos.
And if you are like aaargh I gave up home science so that I would never have to do a back-stitch again…to you I say the time has come for you to let go of the past and face your fears! How long can you run? Let the reconciliation begin…I’m here for you…needles are our friends (and that statement should not in any way be taken as an endorsement for drug abuse).

Hot glue gun- I got mine plus the glue pellets from Amazon for the equivalent of Kshs 850 /= see link here. But I know they must be available locally because I’ve seen them with tailors and the people who do appliqué on table cloths etc. (I'll be on the lookout for where and how much) It’s soooooooooooooooooooooo handy!!! But don’t worry I’ll always show you an alternative to it. And people, even though it's fun to fire up the gun, glue guns are NOT toys...when plugged in that is, if not on they are pretty handy for walking round the house feeling all Lone Ranger-y (not that I do that either).

Stuff you should have that I don’t (but really wish I had)- Pliers, clamp (yes remember the trusty g-clamp), small saw, drill, screw drivers and a tool shed (for crafting and not for hiding bodies). Actually I feel like I just described a good Swiss army knife (except for the tool shed part). 

Random tip- visit the Mia Moja stores- you know the ones that sell everything for Kshs 100/=. I got a cool set of staedtler knives, a solid paint brush and other random craft tools there for 100 bob. And so far they are still working well woop woop.

I think that’s it. We can get crating! I’m going to put up a second post today with a simple craft that uses most/if not all the tools I listed above. Realise a DIY blog should have at least one DIY project posted on there to start with. So coming soon…ie tonight.

*Jembe; Swahili for hoe.



  1. I want a telepathic singing pair of scissors. :D

  2. so, what do you look like when at work - in the goggles, facemask, gloves, and holding a glue gun? (wink, wink)


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