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Hand-woven and hand-dyed in West Africa
West Africa's many textile traditions have given us a variety of wonderful, unique whole cloths.
Many cloths, such as Mali's distinctive mud cloth and certain Indigo cloths, are created using the ancient strip-weaving method found throughout West Africa. The weaver, usually a man, weaves plain white cotton threads into narrow strips up to 60 metres long. Then a sewer, often a retired weaver, cuts and stitches these strips together to make a whole cloth. Only then is the cloth coloured using a variety of techniques.
Mud cloth from Mali is painted with designs using natural mordants and dyes, including river mud. Strip-woven Indigo cloths are stitched and tied to create a resist before being dyed with Indigo.
Some wider cloths are made on larger, more conventional looms, but still by hand.
Using whole cloths
At home in Africa, many of these cloths have special purpose or significance. For example, among the Dogon people of Mali, mud cloth is worn by the mystical class of chasseurs or hunters.
In the UK, Europe, USA and worldwide, people are using these whole cloths from Africa in many ways, including:
- Throws and furnishing
- And in textile art, patchwork and quilting, and embroidery