This week I'm eager to introduce you to our lovely bag makers in Uganda, One Mango Tree:
Ever since starting One Mango Tree in 2007, we've been looking for ways to source all of our fabrics locally. The textile dyeing and weaving traditions have all but died out in Uganda, with cheap imports readily available in the local market. Lucky for us, there are still a few remaining textile artisans who are dedicated to their craft.
We started working with a new group of textile artisans in 2012, adding a new, well-received contingent of woven bags and apparel to our product line. I spent the last month here in Uganda working very closely with the artisans to develop new colors and textile designs for this year. Here's a little peek into how they work their magic - starting with the creation of our ikat-inspired wovens.
Elizabeth, above, studied textile design in India. She specializes in hand-dye techniques - I kept her extremely busy this month making up all sorts of swatches of dye techniques for a home goods line we're working on (stay tuned to our blog for details!). Here she is preparing the warp for an ikat-inspired textile. This particular textile is going to be used for a beach bag for the Catrinka Project - a handbag line that corresponds with the new documentary Girl Rising, about the lives of girls in 10 different countries around the world.
To create an ikat-look in the textile, first the cotton yarns are laid out in parallel lines. Elizabeth and her helpers then apply blue dye in stripes.
The dyed yarns are then hung out to dry in the nice, hot equatorial sun. The shelter where Elizabeth works is also my favorite spot to work, surrounded by banana trees..
Once they're dry, the yarns are formed into big braids and stored until the looms are ready.
Musoke, the head weaver, then threads the loom - which can be a time-consuming effort.
After the loom is threaded, Musoke prepares the weft - that's the yarn that shuttles back and forth on the loom. This process, Musoke tells me, is called "spooling the pan."
And finally, the weaving begins. I love the rhythmic sound of the foot pedals used in this kind of loom. The clickety-clack creates its own sort of soundtrack.
The final result? The beautiful, subtle waves of color.