A knitting nun! and why you can’t find yarn in Kinshasa

For those of you only interested in a photo:

Bins of colorful fleece from MDS&W in May
Bins of colorful fleece from MDS&W in May

Yesterday I had lunch with a new fellow at one of our agencies. She receives a housing stipend but is a graduate of some genre of Catholic school that has a worldwide guest house system. So, during her stay here, she decided to live with the nuns. In a city as expensive as Kinshasa (for expats), this is an incredibly economic move.

She seems to be enjoying living with the nuns – they watch movies, mostly West African, each Sunday as part of a cultural program linked with the cultural center next door. They feed her daily, so she has nourishment and community.

And, we were talking about tonight’s inaugural SnB meeting, and she told me that one of the nuns is a prolific and dedicated knitter.

Now this may not seem too out of the ordinary, knitting in front of a movie, but I know only two other people (and only one of them Congolese) in Kinshasa that told me they know how to knit. There are very few formal stores to speak of in this country, so definitely no yarn stores, although I wonder what you could come up with in the local market. I would imagine the quality would be along the lines of a worsted acrylic, and not produced locally. There was only one place that produced cotton cloth that I know of in Kinshasa, and it recently changed its focus to eliminate the cloth…

There are also no fiber-producing animals to speak of. Heck, you can’t even find a milk-producing animal in Kinshasa. After more than one year living here and three + years traveling here, I finally spotted cows a few weeks back. There are a lot of goats around, outside of the CBD, but the cows are mysteriously not in evidence. In fact, I caught sight of the herd only after dark, and turning a corner off the main road to some secret location around the corner. The main reason, I guess, aside from poverty, is twofold – the weather in the eastern part of the country is cooler, but these more tropical temps don’t support large livestock, and also it is not easy to maintain a hygenic product. Today at lunch, I asked a Kinoise woman about the locally produced drinkable yogurt (which I don’t necessarily recommend, also for hygiene reasons). She said she suspects it is made from powdered milk. There is NO fresh milk to be found here!


4 thoughts on “A knitting nun! and why you can’t find yarn in Kinshasa

  1. Yes I am aware that goats produce milk and the cheese is yummy… Have you seen many goats in Kinshasa, or have you seen milk or cheese for sale? I haven’t but perhaps I have not looked in the right places. Also, none is an angora goat, so, still out of luck for fiber.

  2. It’s a few years since you posted this but it’s the only thing that came up when I searched “Kinshasa yarn”. Just got to Kin — have been living in Lubumbashi the past months and there it’s very common to see mamans in the market crocheting as they wait for customers. It’s always the same acrylic in pastel colors — not baby-fine, but not worsted, maybe sport weight? I haven’t even found cotton to crochet up a shopping bag! Was hoping Kin might have something but will have to wait till we go to Nairobi for Christmas … Sad how little local industry there is. Just plastic, plastic everywhere :-/

  3. Hi there, it’s a long time since I have visited my blog in general, but I love it that you found it and posted this information. I did meet a few crocheters and knitters during my time in DRC, but really very few. I’ve spent the last two years in Cote d’Ivoire, where there is a similar lack of publicly visible yarn for sale, but surprisingly an acrylic yarn producing factory in Yopougon, the largest neighborhood in Abidjan, the “economic capital” of the country. What kind of options did you find in Nairobi?

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