The beautiful natural fibres we use
Updated: Aug 30, 2021
All of our pieces are created with natural fibres and materials, using locally sourced and renewable resources. Our products – whether a Malawi Chair from Malawi, a basket from Zimbabwe or a cushion from Zambia – are all made from materials that are endemic to the regions. Where colour is introduced to basketware, the colours are created using natural organic dyes. We run you through some of our common natural materials here.
In Malawi, cane palms are plentiful throughout the year. They grow wild under the canopy of blue gum trees, and are able to be harvested all year round.
Our Malawi Cane artisans cook the cane as a first step, before peeling off the outer layer. The cane is then dried in the sun before it is ready for weaving.
Cane is also used to make our Buhera bowls and baskets in Zimbabwe. The cane found in the Buhera district is treated with a similar process to that used in Malawi – it is soaked in water first to make it pliable, then woven into a finished piece and sealed with a clear varnish to give it a matte finish.
Ilala palms are indigenous to Zimbabwe and grow in dry, sandy areas away from rivers. They are non-invasive, plentiful and readily available. The dried leaves are naturally cream in colour. To achieve the various design patterns in our basketware, traditional methods of dying this leaf are used to create the desired colour palette.
Sisal is used to create our Sisal Baskets and Sisal Pouffes. A species of the Agave family, Sisal is traditionally used to make rope or twine.
The Sisal fibres are extracted from the leaves through a process called decortication. Sisal is used because of its durability and stretch, and its porous nature makes it easy for dyes to be absorbed.
Dyes are used to colour some of our basketware, including Binga baskets and Sisal baskets. The dyes used are all natural and come from various trees native to Zimbabwe.
Deciduous shrubs, small trees and other organic matter are all used to create a rainbow of authentic African earth tones.
Black dye is made by using leaves from the Umdwada tree, Uchane leaves are used to produce a yellow dye and Isinga roots and Umhlahlampethu leaves are used to produce different shades of brown.
To create a dye, the artisans boil water and a selection of bark, leaves, roots and organic matter.
The palm fronds or sisal being coloured are then steeped in this liquid overnight to create the various shades needed. These traditional skills have been passed down from generation to generation and by continuing to support artisans, we are all contributing to preserving these skills for generations to come.
Our textile range is made in Zambia, and 100% GMO-free, natural cotton fabric is used. The cotton is grown, spun and woven in Zimbabwe, a neighbouring country of Zambia. So far we have not be able to find an organic cotton farm in southern Africa that can provide large enough quantities of fabric – so until then, supporting a neighbouring country rather than increasing our carbon footprint by sourcing organic cotton from a distance part of the world is the preferred approach.
Paints (for textiles)
Each of our textile designs is hand-drawn and painted using a vibrant palette of hand-mixed colours. All paints come from South Africa and are water-based, non-hazardous and non-toxic, meaning they are safe for people and the environment.
Want to know more? If you have any questions about any of the materials used in our pieces, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to our partners: Tribal Textiles, Handcrafts Zimbabwe and Collaborative Craft Projects.