Tuesday 29 August 2017

The African Fabric Shop & Maggie Relph


Maggie Relph from the African Fabric Shop came to talk to the City of York Embroiderers' Guild.  She told us about the African artisans she visits and the many techniques they use to produce their fabulously coloured cloths.  Some tie and stitch the fabric before dyeing.  The threads are removed by cutting them with razor blades.  

Tied fabric ready for dyeing

Others use starch as a resist.  Parafin wax is becoming more popular and can either be stamped onto fabric, used with stencils, spattered or painted on with a variety of improvised tools. Alternatively it might be painted all over and then the fabric scrunched up before dyeing.  Stitch resist type designs can be recreated using wax stamped onto the fabric using carved foam stamps.  This is a more cost effective method. The wax is removed by putting the fabric in boiling water followed by cold water then the wax can be picked off.  This may be done several times. 

Indigo is used by some dyers although dark blue commercial dyes that look like indigo are increasingly common. Dye made from the cola nut which produces an orange colour can be used with indigo.

Some patterns may involve three different dye baths.  Some artisans dye using white fabric and others overdye commercially dyed fabric.  Most of the fabric comes from China and often has a damask weave and may incorporate African symbols in the weave.
We had the opportunity to handle many of Maggie's fabric samples as well as some fabulous decorative baskets and buttons and beads too.

Decorative baskets

If you are looking for something out of the ordinary why not check out what the African Fabric Shop has to offer.

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