Toto Knits – Nairobi, Kenya
Erin Allan is one of the founders of Toto Knits. Meeting her for the first time is inspiring. She and Toto Knits’ co-founder, Mary Wambui, have built an enterprise that creates income opportunities for women in Nairobi. Erin moved to Nairobi from New York in 2002 to fund-raise for a school for children with special needs, where she met Mary that same year. Mary was teaching Arts and Crafts in the special needs school and she persuaded Erin to pick up a pair of knitting needles. So Toto Knits was born and Erin’s life changed irrevocably.
Erin, Mary (and James)
When Erin had children she became aware of the importance of employment opportunities that would allow women to work whilst still nurturing their families, particularly in Kenya where women are often unskilled and marginalized. In addition, Toto Knits is proud to use organic cotton and bio friendly dyes. Each piece is not only earth friendly but encourages trade, not aid.
Mary now trains and manages a group of up to 200 knitters while Erin works on the designs and marketing. As Erin says, “Toto Knits is more than a sweater, it’s a story.”
As an aside: we met at Erin’s home-based office in Feb 2012 when she quite calmly informed us that only the week before our visit she saw a lioness in her backyard. The lioness had escaped from the Nairobi National Park 3 months before and hadn’t yet been re-captured and settled elsewhere. This piece of alarming news, for us at least, didn’t seem to faze Erin. It is all part of the life she leads with her husband and family in Kenya.
A party at Toto Knits, celebrating the many orders they have been receiving.
One Colour sells a range of organic cotton crocheted scarves from Toto Knits.