Mae Woven

What is African Mudcloth?

What is African Mudcloth?

African cloths have been popular in Western cultures for quite some time. Among the most well known are the Ankara fabric from Western Africa, kitenge from Eastern Africa, and African mudcloth. They are used to add an extra element of style or design and each has their own rich history and meaning from their respective cultures. The African mudcloth has a fascinating history and meanings.

Origins

Though it’s commonly referred to as “African”, the fabric hails from northern Africa, specifically the inland country of Mali in the Western Sahara region.  The term “mudcloth” is loosely translated from Bambara, the language spoken in Mali. “Bògòlanfini” as it is called in Bambara, combines three root words: “bogo” meaning earth or mud, “lan” meaning ‘with’, and “fini” meaning cloth. The handmade Malian cloth dyed using fermented mud, giving it its name-sake. The tradition dates back to the 12th century.

Mudcloth was a local tradition

Traditionally made by men, they weave together thin strips of plain fabric, usually a yellowish beige natural color, into squares that were then stitched together. After the construction of the cloth, the fabric was then dyed in baths of leaves and branches. This process is used to bind the dye to the fabric.

The fabric was then laid out to dry in the sun, after which beautiful patterns would be intricately and carefully painted using a special kind of mud. The mud was collected from numerous streams and ponds and left to ferment over seasons.

As the mud dries, it changes colors, from dark brown or black to a gray color. The excess mud is washed off the fabric and the process is repeated many times. With each repetition, the affected area becomes darker. The unpainted areas were treated with a bleaching agent, turning the natural yellow color brown. After sun drying for a week, the fabric is washed off and leaves the characteristic white pattern on a dark background.   

african-mudcloth-pattern-meanings

The meaning of the patterns

Similar to Ankara and kitenge fabrics, mudcloth were often manufactured to carry meaning to the wearers and onlookers. The designers used the pattern of the light shapes and figures on the dark background to convey meaning, often passed from mother to daughter. These meanings could often be quite complex, but there were some standard patterns that had accepted meanings within certain ingroups. A twirl, for instance, meant life, while a concentric circle could represent the world.

mudcloth-modern-day-fashion

Mudcloth in modern fashion

Chris Seydou, a Malian fashion designer, is widely credited with bringing African mudcloth into the modern fashion arena. Growing up with his embroiderer mother, Seydou was frequently surrounded by the fabrics and incorporated them into his haute couture clothes, modifying the complex patterns for Western audiences.

Large amounts of mudcloth are still produced in Mali, mostly as part of the tourist trade, with men responsible for most of the production. Today, it is used in a variety of ways, from fashion to furniture and home decor. It remains a popular way to add texture and pattern to an outfit or a room.

At Mae Woven, we love having our pillows made from African mudcloth. We find fabric in many different colors from black, to rust and white or cream and even pink! We love the designs and textures that make each pillow cover unique.

How to Style a Throw Blanket

How to Style a Throw Blanket

A great stylish throw blanket can be the perfect way to add an accent or flair to your decor, pulling together tones and textures in a space with little actual effort on your part. They add a homey feel to any room and can be used to complement the color, style, or texture of a room.

In addition to adding style to a room, a throw blanket, of course, has its functional advantages. In the winter they are great for cuddling up by the fire or on the couch while watching a movie with loved ones.

In warmer months, you may want to switch to lighter fabrics. The advantage here is having the opportunity to be more playful with the texture and weave of the throw. It can also help transition your household decor through the seasons, balancing the color scheme with light and brightness in the summer months or deep earth tones in the winter.

Styling-Throw-Blankets

For a sitting area or a bedroom, you can fold the throw in half, lengthwise and:

  • Style it over a statement chair, placing a pillow on top
  • Drape over the arm of a sofa or chair, with a pillow placed in the corner
  • Drape over the center of the sofa, spilling over the back
  • Fold on the sofa, underneath decorative pillows
  • Use the full area of the throw blanket and cover the center panels
  • Use the full area of the throw blanket and align juxtaposed so that two corners meet the back frame with the rest of the throw blanket hanging onto the seat and down the back
  • Cross diagonally over one side of the couch, again with pillows to cover it
  • Fold across the foot of the bed to deliminate the end of the bed. Typically the throw at the foot of the bed adds a nice complimentary color to the bedroom scheme
  • Fold across the head the bed, just where the duvet is folded over. Typically a throw blanket in this position adds a contrast to highlight stylish decorative pillows against the backdrop of a duvet. It often adds dimension to an otherwise uniform landscape
  • Drape over a headboard

Less-formal-throws

If you want a less formal look, you can opt not to fold the throw in half, lengthwise and instead:

  • Throw casually on the center of the bed, full surface area utilized
  • Hang on a hook or coat rack to add a splash of color to the walls
  • Hang as wall art

There are so many options and combinations you can try out to add style to your home decor. The versatility, functional usage, and warmth added to your room by the thoughtful use of a throw blanket can make a big difference in adding a “homey” touch to your house. It can invite guests to get comfortable and feel at home. So pick up one while you’re out and get started.

Tips for Mixing and Matching Pillows for Your Sofa

Tips for Mixing and Matching Pillows for Your Sofa

For one of the easiest ways to update your home decor, throw pillows are a quick and easy upgrade. And because throw pillows can be affordable and come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and textures, it’s easier than ever to go from frumpy and boring to a style that more matches your own unique lair. It’s time to toss those old pillows that came with your couch and create a cohesive, updated look that speaks to your inner stylist.

It can be tricky to know how to mix and match throw pillows on a sofa, but with these 6 tips, you’ll go from drab to delightful in no time at all.

Forget Matching

Perhaps the most important idea to get out of your mind is the one that says you need to match. Nothing says dated and boring than matching pillows. Going for a basic color scheme, or three or four colors that work together, means no matter the pattern, texture, or shape, you’ll have an updated aesthetic for your throw pillows.

It’s also fine to choose pillows within the same theme, say a boho look, or a geometrical, black and white theme. Having a cohesive design style will look thoughtfully modern.

Odd for Modern, Even for Traditional

For a modern look, aim for an odd number of pillows, and keep the total amount of pillows on the low end (three, or five max). Too many pillows can look overwhelming, and create a space that isn’t inviting. If your style is more traditional, you should aim for an even number of pillows for a balanced, symmetrical look that still looks fresh and updated (aim for two or four pillows).

Mixing Textures is In

Mixing patterns and colors is a great start to updating your pillow game, but don’t forget textures in the process. Find pillows made from different fabric textures and create a look that varies in color, pattern, and texture for a truly cozy, visually interesting couch. For varied textures, try exciting textiles like cactus silk pillows, Moroccan wool pillows, and fresh linen pillows. African Mud Cloth and Baoulé pillows add exciting patterns and designs as well as texture.

Remember, while you’re totally allowed to “go wild” here with texture (fur, velvet, even leather aren’t off limits) subtle textile differences — like between Mud Cloth and Moroccan Wool — can also be striking, while maintaining a modern, minimalist look.

The Fill is Important

Down pillow fills offer a softer, luxe to your sofa, while pillows made of synthetic fibers are more wallet-friendly will retain their shape better. Mae Woven uses down alternative pillow fills, for a budget conscious option that holds the shape and chuff of down, while remaining environmentally friendly and cruelty free.

Think Outside the Box

Traditionally, most throw pillows are square. And while there is a place for traditional and square, it’s perfectly acceptable—encouraged, even—to think outside the box here, and select some rectangular pillows, lumbar pillows, or other shapes. This will modernize your couch style.

Just Forget all the Rules

Okay, these rules are good to follow because they work in aesthetically pleasing, artful ways. But these rules aren’t really actually rules that you must follow. If you prefer an eclectic look, or have a more bohemian style, or just simply like what you like and don’t give a thought to rules of aesthetic, just go for what you want to go for. Ultimately, creating a look with throw pillows should fit what you like…no matter what.