A Connecting Thread

Joan Ruane has championed cotton spinning for decades. A chance e-mail from a local woman in Uganda created a connection between Joan and a group of crocheters. We asked Joan if she would share her experience with us.

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Allen Nansubuga, founder of Crocet4Life in the small village of outside of Kampala, Uganda, took a chance and e-mailed Joan Ruane, an avid cotton spinner and educator in the United States to ask if she could assist them to utilize their native cotton. Using only the internet, they found a way!

Allen Nansubuga, founder of Crocet4Life in the small village of outside of Kampala, Uganda, e-mailed me in in February of 2012 to ask if I could assist them in utilizing their native cotton. She had stumbled upon my website and thought perhaps I could help her solve a supply problem. 

Allen, a cancer survivor and an electrical engineer by training, works with School Net Uganda and World Links for Development as a technology specialist. Acrylic yarns were all the women had to work with, but cotton grew all around them. Allen wondered if I could help them turn that cotton into yarn that they could use for their crochet projects.

My first step was to mail Allen ten takli spindles and my DVD called Cotton Spinning on the Takli. Within less than two weeks of receiving the spindles, I received photos of the yarn Allen had spun and said she was ready to teach others!

With the support of many fiber friends, the group now has workspace that boasts five spinning wheels, cotton carders, two rigid-heddle looms, and a variety of other tools and equipment. The group meets every Saturday.

About every other month, I send out a package of supplies. What we take for granted like masks, gloves, dye equipment, and buttons are all treasures to them. I wrap the supplies in children’s clothes, cloth bags, or old towels. Everything is used and appreciated!

Allen keeps me abreast of what is happening and sends weekly photos of the groups progress. It is so gratifying that, via e-mails, I can still teach the women the skills they need to be successful. For instance, when Allen first started to ply her singles, I recognized that she was plying in the same direction as the yarn was spun causing the yarn to be unusable. I quickly told her to ply in the opposite direction. She once complained that it took so long to weave. I realized that she was not using the rigid heddle to lift and lower the warp yarns. You can feel the smiles come through my e-mails with each new skill they master!

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The women of Crochet4Life at work in their new space.

It has been a wonderful journey with Allen and her Crochet4Life group. In June of 2013, Allen’s group was approved as an official non-governmental organization (NGO) associated with the United Nations. Since Crochet4Life was started using one fiber technique, but now also incorporates spinning and weaving, Allen wanted all fiber artists to be welcome. The official NGO name is Fiber Your World Uganda. The group has grown to 30 women and still expanding.

Who knew how one email would change my life and theirs for the better.

—Joan Ruane

To learn more about this group and how you can help, e-mail Joan at spincotton@yahoo.com and put Crochet4Life in the subject line. Like to hear more stories about the connections being made between fiber enthusiasts? Like our Facebook page! WARP’s 2015 membership drive is underway; click here to become a member today!

One comment on “A Connecting Thread

  1. I have been working with Allen to create a way for those interested to donate to her efforts to help women in her country. We’ve finally done it and I wanted to share that with you. You can go to http://www.paypal.com, click on “Send” in the upper left corner, enter crotchet4lifeuganda@yahoo.co.uk as the email address and how much you’d like to give. It will say Euros, but you can use the drop down to select Dollars. From there, follow the prompts. It is not a tax deductible donation, however, your donation will be greatly appreciated and put to good use making a difference. Right now Crochet4Life needs funds to get a new space for the women to meet and to store their tools.

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