Mister Singer

There’s a sewing machine we’ve been moving house with ever since I first saw it creep up into our living room in late 1990. It has simply refused to go away. Even OLX can’t catalogue it. Weeks before its arrival, I imagine there was flurry in the household with my Mum too excited to sleep at night – she was finally getting a machine. A machine! A Singer machine!
I mean, such are the things that must have excited her back then. Her own sewing machine! Christmas had come early. I would get as giddy if someone came up to me and said, “Bett, you’ve been a mighty sport this year. For all your troubles I am getting you a Kindle Paperwhite.”

Her machine, it had a brown formica body which opened up like a carton box: you lift up one flap to the left, lift another to go over the right side. Then you pull out the sewing centre (I just made that up) from the perimeter of the formica frame – it hang upside down the inside of the carton box, sorry, the sewing machine. One couldn’t be berated for believing it looked like a mechanical bat.
A few inches from the floor was this wide-ass black metallic pedal that run the ‘motor’ of the sewing centre. Hers was a manual machine so you had to pump hard on the pedal to run your stitches along the fabric. That pedal, man – it turned a dainty seamstress into sweaty workhorse.

On the inner side of the bottom flap was a rack for holding your pincushions and your needles and your threads and thimbles. (Thimble – I absolutely love that word, thimble. We don’t use it enough already. Thimble. If I had a kid I would consider naming it thimble. But where did all the thimbles go, anyway?). So that rack. It was a tiny rack with rounded edges, and it was ill-placed and impractically shallow. I don’t know why, for the love of me, I pitied the poor thing each time I saw it. Who pities a rack anyway?

Now would be a good time to make some things clear about my Mum and her sewing machine. My Mum couldn’t draw designs to save her life. Or the life of that sewing machine; her bodices (that’s what seamstresses call ‘tops’) all looked like t-shirts, her skirts were like rectangles, her dresses were a boxy A-line that couldn’t flatter anybody’s figure, her pants had pleats for her generation and mine, even MC Hammer couldn’t touch that, hehee. Her models (because she insisted on drawing models even though that wasn’t the point of focus) looked like the characters she drew for her Class One kids, to show them the parts of the body – they had wide nostrils, lacked proportion and wore y-front briefs. You couldn’t tell if the model were a boy or a girl.

My Mum developed an interest in dressmaking because it seemed cool. I don’t know from whom or where she picked it from, but she had the basic skills to call herself a tailor.
(I hate that word, by the way. I hate it ‘cause it reminds me of a fundi. Jesus. Point me to one fundi in this town, just one, who ever bloody delivers your order on time? I bet you a dime for every fundi who told you to collect your stuff “saa nane Friday”, but you get there and he feigns this dumb look of Oh-I-forgot-forgive-me and goes on to tell you how busy he’s been all week with some gowns he’s working on for a wedding next Sato, and you wonder how anyone would trust him with wardrobe for their Big Day, then he tells you your stuff won’t take more than ten minutes and that if you have some time you can wait as he quickly gets them done, and before you can argue he’s already pulling you a stool and threading the machine as he rummages through a smelly pile of fabrics and garments and retrieves your stuff from the black paper bag they’ve been in ever since you brought them three weeks ago. I swear. Just show me one fundi? Just one.)
I suppose my Mum’s interest stemmed from the finesse of her sewing and knitting and crocheting. But dressmaking, especially from her own designs? No way. That wasn’t your forte, Mum. You, uhm, sucked at it. And I say that from a place of deep love.

She must have realized this early ‘cause she stuck to mending hems and seams instead of playing the creative director. Are you looking to fix your hem? she’d ask, I got it. Bed sheets and towels, curtains? You came to the right person. My kid bros’ shorts, our dresses, my Ol’Man’s pants? Nothing is out of my reach. Headscarves and shawls? Bring ‘em over. As long as it had a hem, she’d rework it. When she ran out of hems, there were days she’d just open the machine and sit with it, studying her needle case or something. Bathing in all its relic glory.

That sewing machine defined a perfect afternoon for my Mum for many years before she hang its boots.

Even now, as I write this, I can still hear the sound of her working that pedal: ku-guu, ku-guu, ku-guu, ku-guu.

Art and Craft
Show me the money

Comments (2)

  1. dskuwe

    My Mum had one too. An electric one. Am guessing she really had to save up for it given that she had a clerical government job back in the early eighties.

    I don’t think she was a good fundi though. The only thing she made was curtains, bed sheets, pillow covers and those sit vitambaas that wives used to mark their territory back then. ‘…utajua umeoa akianza kutadika vitabaa kwa kiti'( add kikuyu accent), my uncles would joke. I wonder how ladies mark their territory these days?

    I think sewing machines were just something people wanted to have. Being a fundi was like being a blogger today. These days anyone with thumbs and an internet audience can claim to be a blogger. No writing skills required. You don’t even need the other eight fingers just the two. You can relate. You are a blogger. A real one.

    I like the ‘Mum’ articles. I think they would make a nice short story compilation.

    • fra

      Me too. Best writing gig this year.

      You have alotta insight for your young mind. How about you blog it? :)

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Florence Bett-Kinyatti


Columnist Saturday Nation Writer Craft It Author of best-selling ‘SHOULD I?’ and ‘HOW MUCH?’ ~ Guiding word: Overdrive Subscribe to our Newsletter👇🏾 eepurl.com/igmN8P
  • Dear God, 
It’s me again.

I don’t pray as often as I need to, You know that. I don’t kneel by my bed in child-like humility, as Muna does. I don’t whisper a prayer in the morning. Or at noon. Perhaps just in the evening. 

This going-to-church habit is a constant false start. So is reading the Word. 

I’m often guilty but I also know: You and I have a language only we can understand. 

I speak to You through this gift You bestowed upon my Kale shoulders, this gift to write in colour. It’s a gift that sometimes feels like a curse, a burden I have no choice but to pursue. 

Yet other times – most times, actually – it’s the very breath of my essence. Everyday I sit to write, when the words flow from my head and heart through my fingers to the page, I feel You next to me. 

You are here, Lord. Hovering. Lingering. Swooshing about in Your regal robes, like a character from Bridgerton.

Sometimes You get so close I can feel You breathing on my neck and I’m like, ‘Err, God, do You mind, personal space?’

And You chuckle uncomfortably. ‘He-he, of course. Of course.’

I’m here to tell You, Thanks!

I hosted my first in-person event last March, Lord, thank You to all the lovely ladies who granted me their time and full attention. 

I’ve carried them in my heart since and every day, my prayer is that You bring them closer to the life of abundance they each seek. To their own version of wealth. 

I always call them by their name: Becky. Purity. Lindsay. Wangui. Naomi. Shiqow. Mercy. Liz. Winnie. Polly. Nduta. Lynet. 

And Mike. 

Dear Lord, I’m prepping for my next in-person event in June, Inshallah. 

Walk with me as I get there. 

Love always,

  • Highlights from our first-ever in person event hosted by Craft It and @financialfitbit 
Thanks to all the lovely ladies — and gent, hehe — who honoured us with the privilege of their time and attention. And colourful energy. It’s been weeks since and it’s only now that I’m coming down from the high. 

Thank YOU!

🎥 @mikemuthaka 

#craftit #author #MakeYourMoneyMatter #personalfinance #money
  • I am a woman.

I’m strong. I’m brilliant. I’m like a comet shooting across the sky, I’m so bright you have to put on shades to see me.

I’m almost 40, I’m almost fully realising myself as a woman and the power of womanhood I possess.

I’m so powerful that if KPLC connected me to the national grid, I’d power up this country and we’d never have another blackout.

Ho! Ho! Ho!


To recognize and celebrate International Women’s Day today, I’d like to recognize and celebrate eight women.

I have eight things to give away to each of these women:
a) Two tickets to my upcoming event on March 18 with @financialfitbit Theme is ‘Make your money matter’
b) Three autographed copies of my book ‘Should I?’
c) Three autographed copies of my other book ‘How Much?’

To participate:
1. Like this post
2. Tag women who deserve a win of either event ticket or book (tag as many women as you like)
3. Tell us what you’d like her to win and why she deserves the win
4. Make sure your tagged women follow @_craftit and @financialfitbit 

Here are the rules for the giveaway:
— One woman, one win
— Winners will be contacted via DM
— Giveaway closes at the end of this week, Inshallah, on Sunday 12 March
— Only open to people living in Kenya

All the best!

(Swipe right to see the women I’m celebrating.)

#craftit #internationalwomensday
  • My 2022 word of the year was Wholesome. 

Wholesome meant engaging in moderation and in pursuits that didn’t leave me feeling yucky.

An example: there’re weekend nights I’d go out then have too much to drink. On the drive home, I’d tell GB to stop the car every half mile so I could throw up on the side of the road. Then I’d take three working days recovering. 


No more of that nonsense.

Now I have only two doubles of Singleton whiskey and chase it with water. I eat less food and I eat better. I take my supplements. I treat myself to an early bedtime and arise with my body clock, no alarm.

I spend a lot more time hanging with my kids, Muna and Njeeh. 

I buy fewer things. 

I play the piano. 

I created a disciplined routine for my work and take Thursdays off. 

You catch my drift…

Wholesome has become my lifestyle. 

(By the way, I was asked, ‘Where does this word-of-the-year come from, Bett?’ I don’t know about other people but for me, the words present themselves when I’m journaling. My spirit tells me what it needs; I must be still enough to listen and brave enough to obey.)

My word for 2023 is Overdrive.

My two books have unlocked new opportunities for me as a writer and creative. As an urban brand. I’d honestly not foreseen them. 

I know that if I adjust my sails to where the wind is blowing, these opportunities will translate to wealth.

Last Friday, I listed all the work I’m already doing and all the new opportunities – potential and realised – knocking at my door.

I asked myself, ‘What am I taking up here and what am I dropping?’

The response, ‘None – we go into overdrive and smartly pursue them all.’

#craftit #urbanguide
  • Years ago, my best friend said to me, ‘Bett, we’re almost 40 – forget makeup, let’s take care of our skin instead.’

I had to laugh because this was coming from Terry. Terry my Kisii pal, this fine gyal with skin the colour of honey, the only practising SDA in my circle. 

Terry had spent her 20s and early 30s sleek with Arimis. That’s right, the milking jelly with a lactating cow on its logo. 

Arimis addressed all her skin pickles back then. It was her problem fixer. Her Olivia Pope. It’s the one thing that always said, It’s handled.

Now here she was preaching to us about a consistent skincare regimen in the AM and PM.


It wasn’t until Terry shared her selfies on our girls WhatsApp group that I stopped laughing. It wasn’t until we stood next her – and took these selfies – that I reeally stopped laughing: Terry’s skin was youthful and toned, plump. Hydrated. Moistured but not shiny. 

It looked like it had been kissed by the Greek goddess of radiance. 

So we gathered around her feet and said, ‘Forgive us, master. We are ready now. Teach us everything you know.’

She did. 

Terry and I now spend plenty of time before work and before bed squeezing out little portions of expensive skincare products from expensive tubes, we layer them on our face in a calculated measure.

This serum here is for the circles under my eyes and the fine lines around my mouth.

Turns out I’ve been giving away too much of my face: I’ve been looking too hard, laughing too easily.

I’ll have to spend the next year into my 40s with my eyes half shut and laughing little. I'll have a resting bitch face.

Don’t blame me, blame the retinol.

And age.

#craftit #urbanguide #urbangirl
  • I’m Bett. I’m the author of your favourite books about money. I’m hosting an in-person event in March, Inshallah: This is my personal invite to you.

#craftit #moneymaker #moneyinkenya
  • I am hosting my first money event this March, Inhsallah. It’s the first of quarterly events I have planned for the year. 

(Give me a moment here so I pull myself together long enough to write this. I’m smiling very hard right now, ha-ha, I look like a donkey.)


The event will be in-person. On a Saturday morning, a loose three hours which, I am certain, you’d have burned on some other pursuit you couldn’t account for later. (I’d probably be oiling the hinges of a squeaky door or decluttering my sock drawer.)

My guest host for this edition is Lynet Kyalo. 

Lynet is a personal finance coach under her brand @financialfitbit She also hosts @getyourbagrightpodcast 

Buy your tickets from our Market.

Early bird tickets are discounted until the end of this month.

Limited slots available. 

#craftit #millenialmoney #moneyevent #moneymaker
  • Sometimes I sit down and read my own book. 

Odd, huh?

Reading my own stories is like an out-of-body experience. Or getting introduced to myself again. An outward journey inward.

It’s fascinating.

I also read because I need to improve my writing for my next project.

We call them the Elements of Craft: things like sentence structure and punctuation, word placement, story length etc, they all inform your reading experience.

This is what makes the book easy to read, and has you turning the pages.

Cop your autographed copy and #betteryourmoney 

#craftit #howmuch #millenialmoney #moneymaker

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