Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mud Cloth Plaza Jacket

I recently returned from a wonderful trip to South Africa where I was happy to be able to buy a piece of true african mud cloth. Do you know about mud cloth? It is hand woven by men in Mali using their own hand for the loom. Because it is woven on the hand each strip of fabric is just about 5 inches wide. These strips are then sewn together to form a textile about a metre wide. Once sewn together the women dye the piece using traditional symbols all of which have some meaning to them. They use natural dyes in earth tones, black, brown, tan, olive. Mud is used as a resist in the dying process. My piece was about 2 metres long which seemed to be typical. As you can see mud cloth is a very dramatic textile.

I had in mind a different pattern but, once home and after washing/shrinking, I realized I really had very little fabric to deal with. The Plaza Jacket is perfect as it uses very little. Even so I had to fold out 5 1/2 inches on the front and back to fit on my narrow fabric. As you can see the jacket is still very wide! I lengthened the jacket also to use all my fabric adding about 2 inches to the length.

Speaking of the washing/shrinking, I carefully washed the fabric in cold water as recommended. I knew it would fade and the color would bleed into the white areas to make them less bright. Even so it was necessary to wash the textile as it came with a very "natural" odor. To my surprise, not only did it fade and bleed, but it turned my dryer into a brown mess. I had to wash down the inside of the dryer to remove all the crud. I washed it a second time throwing 3 of those dye catching papers into the wash. They came out dark bown but the textile looked a lot better. This time the dryer stayed clean.

As to sewing mud cloth, I'm glad I picked a design with few seams or details. This was a bear to sew. Even the serger didn't like it. I broke needles on both machines and even with a heavy duty needle, I needed to sew very, very slowly. It is like a heavy burlap.

There was a stripe on the selvedge edge of the textile so I eliminated the turned back hems on the front edges and sleeve hems so that I could use it as a design element.

I'm very pleased with my mud cloth jacket.