Cut From the Same Cloth: 20 Amazing Textiles from Around the Globe
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Textiles from Around the Globe
In the Sept/Oct issue of AFAR, we took a trip around the world via textiles and came back with a deep appreciation for all things stitched, woven, embroidered, and dyed. What did we learn? No two textiles are the same, and for good reason—the history, climate, and culture of each place plays a big role in determining the design and material of everyday fabrics. Take a scroll through the slideshow to see 20 of our favorite textiles, and some of the stories behind where we picked them up.
The first evidence of tartan, Scotland’s go-to criss-cross pattern, dates back to an image of Scottish soldiers wearing pattered kilts in 1631. Traditionally, tartans are made of wool, but today the materials vary just as much as the colors of the horizontal and vertical bands.
“The blue and white match Greece’s national colors,” says AFAR’s content partnership director @loulagrange about this textile he brought home from a trip. “They are a good reminder of the joys of the country and my journey there.”
The state of Oaxaca is known for many things—its archeological sites, culinary specialties, and indigenous art scene, to name a few. This textile, a woven tablecloth, was bought from a local vendor in Juarez Market.
AFAR’s content partnership director @loulagrange purchased this piece in an Aleppo fabric store in 1997. “It served as a great tablecloth to me and my family for many years,” he says. “I recently placed it in storage out of respect for what’s been happening to its homeland.”
Nobody weaves the colors of the rainbow the way the Guatemalans do. Whether it’s a table runner, wall hanging, or long skirt, Mayans keep their indigenous traditions alive by incorporating a variety of bright colors, patterns, and designs into each piece.
A few things come to mind with the mention of traditional Polish dress: waistcoats with bright tassels, white blouses, paneled skirts, and ornamental ribbons. But no item says Poland as much as the classic white kerchief with a floral print.
When AFAR’s content partnership director @loulagrange picked up this textile in Mali, what struck him the most was that “the design simultaneously feels both eternal and modern.” The mud cloth, also known as bogolanfini, was created through a traditional hand-weaving process and colored with dyes made from fermented mud.
When AFAR Experiences headed to Cairo in 2011, editor in chief @juliacosgrove picked up this textile at the main souq. Little did she know, it would become a staple in her California home: “I use it religiously as a tablecloth when we have friends over for al fresco meals in the summer.”
In a land where winter temperatures plummet to well-below freezing, staying warm is a priority. And indigenous peoples of Peru are experts when it comes to alpaca wool. First, the alpaca is sheared, and then the fiber is spun into yarn, dyed, and woven into beautiful (and warm) everyday wear.
The textiles of Tajikistan are really something else. We particularly love the traditional hand-stitched suzanis(from the Persian word for “needle”) and the silk ikat patterns that pop up in clothing, tablecloths, and scarves throughout the country. This suzani was bought in Dushanbe, from a woman who lives in the mountains outside of the capital city.
The art of shibori is one of Japan’s oldest and most popular crafts. The fabric is shaped—sometimes it’s twisted, folded, or even stitched together—and then a resist-dying technique is used to create a pattern. This beauty was hand-dyed with white and indigo designs.
Born in Central Australia, artist Marie Napurrulla incorporates her aboriginal ancestry into her work. Her design “Grandmother’s Journey” represents her grandmother’s trips throughout Australia (in particular from Tempe Downs Cattle station to Areyonga and Ntaria) as an assistant to travelers.
AFAR photo editor @palographic spotted this Bolivian beauty in La Paz, where she also bought a number of sugar sculptures. “The sculptures didn't taste great,” she says, “but I gave the cloth to my mother-in-law in Havana. It’s fun to see it on a Cuban dining table.”
“One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited was Sapa, in northern Vietnam,” says AFAR editorial assistant @goneofftrack. “I spent a few days staying there, trekking around those vibrant green rice terraces with a guide from one of the local hill tribes, and we kept passing laundry lines hung with billows of fresh-dyed indigo cloth. It was one of the most enduring memories of that trip, and when I found some of the finished product at the Bac Ha market at the end of the week, the textile-obsessive in me couldn’t resist.”
When it comes to Ghanaian textiles, every stripe, color, and design motif says something about the person who created the piece—or the person who is wearing it. Kente, the country’s national cloth, is a good example. This particular fabric is a style of African wax print, otherwise known as batik.