Around the world you can expect to see some amazing textiles. Many of them with ancient origins and techniques which have been past down for generations. Textiles are often categorized into four main groups: animal, plant, mineral, and synthetic textiles. In February of 2019, I had the opportunity to visit the Museum of Black Civilizations in Dakar, Senegal where one of the exhibits focuses solely on textiles. There were multiple mannequins dressed in beautiful clothing, beautiful pictures, beautiful cloth, as well as other textiles. The exhibit told a story about textiles within the continent of Africa and within the diaspora. Let us talk briefly about some of the most beautiful textiles such as African Wax Prints, Indigo, Mudcloth, Pashmina, and Silk.
African Wax Prints are made of 100% cotton and boast a myriad of colors and designs that often depict components of African culture. These prints are produced by a machine using wax resins and dyes to create a batik-like effect on both sides of the fabric. You may find some wax prints with only one side printed, so beware and check to see if the pattern is applied to both sides.
Indigo is derived from the plant family indigofera tinctorial which boasts a vibrant deep-blue color. Each region has its own dying process, but typically involves boiling the leaves of Indigo plant and then a fermentation of the concoction. The fabric is then dipped into the dye many times to attain the intensive indigo blue coloring. The piece of Indigo fabric shown below I purchased in a market in Dakar, Senegal.
Mudcloth is traditionally a Malian fabric that is sun-dried and painted repeatedly with fermented mud and plant dyes. The cotton used for mudcloth is often grown locally and is beige in color. There are some beautiful designs added to mudcloth by bleaching and using the bark of a tree to obtain an orange or deep russet color.
Pashmina is made from a type of fine cashmere wool. Fine cashmere is created from the Changthangi goat using the downy undercoat. Depending upon the quality of pashminas the price can range dramatically. While in Mauritius, a friend and I purchased multiple beautiful pashmina scarves.
Silk is a produced by certain insect larvae and it a natural protein fiber with the ability to woven into textiles. Many fine women dresses, blouses, scarves, etc. are made from silk. Silk is smooth, soft, and has a liquidy feel. This fabric can feel cool in the summer and warm in the winter against the skin. Silk is often found in many other textiles such as in Persian rugs, which are typically wool with silk accents.
As you may have guessed, textiles play an important role in the fabric of our lives (no pun intended). Textiles are almost as old as mankind, back when Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden and covered themselves after sinning by sewing together fig leaves. Textiles have changed drastically over the years and many people have used them to make fantastic garments. I, myself have purchase several beautiful African print skirts and dresses from many types of fabric. Share some of your favorite textiles and whether you have picked up some during your travels.
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