The vintage African Indigo, also called Mossi or Bogolanfini, used to reupholster the large armchairs in the photo above are a great example of repurposing vintage fabric. I'm often asked if the vintage African indigo textiles are strong enough to use as upholstery. The answer is typically yes, but it depends on the condition of the vintage African indigo. Some are full of holes and very thread-bare while others remain sturdy and tough through the years. The pieces used for the chairs above are likely backed with muslin, or stabilized with fusible interlining so the fabric will last for years.
photo: juxtaposition home
The stack of vintage African Indigo above was in my repair bin for months. I finally pulled them out and set to mending the vintage African fabric so it would be ready for repurposing. Cleaning and deodorizing vintage fabric is the first step to giving it a new design purpose.
photo: Morrissey Fabric
The interior above, designed by La Boheme House of the Wishing Trees is loaded with texture and color from all the global textiles. The lively space comes to life with vintage fabrics, plants, and a nicely placed kimono used like a headboard. The fearless use of vintage textiles from all over the globe give the bedroom a signature bohemian style.
The square poufs above by Thread Tooth are made from several different vintage global textiles. Vintage Chinese Batik, African Baule cloth, and faded African Indigo are all one of a kind textiles that have been repurposed into interior accessories. The colorful embroidered Indigo from Mali, Africa adds to an interior design vision when hung on the wall. No formal frame required.
photo: Thread Tooth
The retail space above showcases a more subtle use of global textiles. Yellow Prairie Interiors skillfully displayed black and white African mud cloth accessories among neutral furnishings. The green and white foliage print gives the palette a nice bit of accent color.
Photo: Yellow Prairie Interiors
The sophisticated living room above is given character through the addition of globally sourced textiles. This is a colorful example of decorating with geometrically patterned fabrics from around the world. The rug adds playful hues that are picked up in the other textiles in the room. The walls and sofa remained neutral keeping the space from becoming overwhelming.
The global textiles and striking rug at The Beach lodge are welcoming and filled with character. The black and white African mud cloth on the bed balances the room nicely against the actively patterned pillows and kilim rug.
photo: The beach lodge
Please watch for part two of Global Fabric Design Inspiration.
When I opened Morrissey Fabric I had no idea that many of my customers would use my vintage globally sourced textiles to make pillows. Eighteen months later I've come to understand that pillow makers are a major part of my customer base. African Indigo, mud cloth, Chinese batik, these are just a few of the vintage textiles made popular as the bohemian style trend in home decor continues. Consumers on the look out to purchase one of a kind pieces made by individuals rather than large corporations have supported these pillow makers and their small business endeavors. In turn, these creative entrepreneurs have turned to Morrissey Fabric as a reliable source for clean and unique vintage global textiles.
photo: Morrissey Fabric
Since many pillow makers tend to sew square pillows there is always demand for lumbar pillows made from vintage global textiles. The jumbo lumbar in the photo above was made from a vintage Hmong batik fabric. I made this pillow cover as a sample to inspire creative repurposing of a vintage indigo. This particular vintage fabric was in tough shape, but the colorful hand stitched embroidery motivated me to save this vintage indigo textile and give it new life as a pillow.
The vintage indigo batik fabric used for the pillow above was originally a pleated skirt. The folds on the batik fabric left some thin areas and some torn spots so patches were in order. Since the vintage batik design disguised the repairs I didn't accent them with contrast stitching.
When vintage African Indigo has unsightly stains that won't come out after 48 hours in a soap and water solution, I like to add a decorative patch. Some light stains aren't a bother, but there are others, like tar, marking pen, or paint, that I prefer to disguise. That was the case with the vintage African indigo I used to make the jumbo lumbar pillow in the photo above. I gave the patch a red cotton hand stitching to highlight the mending. Since I'm making these pillows to enjoy my time sewing, it was nice not to stress about the extra time taken.
Photo: Morrissey Fabric
If you are familiar with my Morrissey Fabric Instagram feed or Facebook page, you know I love color. I recently had a request for a pillow made from a vintage silk Chinese wedding blanket, so more lumbar pillows were up next. The colorful hot pink vintage textile was so vibrant I decided to piece it back to a neutral cotton upholstery fabric. Sometimes this extra step will soften the pop of color so that it can be more easily coordinated back to less saturated colors in an interior space. As soon as these two fabrics were combined it had a tropical island vibe. This gives the pillow cover a more understandable design making it easier to visualize the pillow placed atop summer bedding or a neutral color sofa.
Photo: Morrissey Fabric
The vintage Kuba cloth pillow seen above was custom made for a client in New York City. It was important to the client to maintain the intention of the original cloth rather than cut a decorative front and stitch it to a linen back. I was happy to oblige the client. We agreed that I would use the vintage Kuba cloth textile for the front and back of the pillow cover, and that I would not remove the decorative trim that was hand stitched along each side. The end result had a bit of a ripple along the side seams, but it honored the original artisan's design beautifully and the client was thrilled.
All the pillows I create for Morrissey Fabric are sold on Chairish.com so that I'm not competing with my Esty pillow makers. You can go there for inspiration or to purchase a one-of-a-kind vintage fabric pillow. Of course you are always welcome to visit my Etsy shop to purchase from a large selection of vintage global textiles to create your own designer pillows.
I'm frequently asked by my customers how to best clean African Indigo and African mud cloth textiles. This post provides several suggestions on overall cleaning and spot cleaning of your African Indigo fabric.
photo: Morrissey Fabric
The vintage African Indigo in the photo above received the first step of cleaning that all my vintage indigo pieces get. I load the washing machine with hot water then add Sythropol textile soap and a cup of Oxi Clean for colors. I use a big stick to mix the water and soaps, then I add two or three indigo pieces to the washing machine. On occasion the vintage textile will split a seam or two. Unfortunately the vintage indigo shown above needed a lot of mending after washing. Since there was no staining, the mending is worth the effort.
More often than not, vintage African Indigo and mud cloth has spots and stains after washing. The African Baule cloth from the Ivory Coast shown above still has multiple stains that did not come out in the wash. This is when time becomes your friend. In a spare sink, fill half full with hot water. In my case I use large plastic storage bins. Then add a scoop of Oxi Clean and a tablespoon of Synthropol textile soap to the water and mix. Next, place the stained vintage indigo into the water mixture. Agitate to be sure the textile is fully submerged. Allow the stained textile to remain in the bath for 24 hours.
Below is a photo of how I soak out stains. Nearly every time the vintage African fabrics go through this soaking process the stains are gone and you would never know they were there.
A word of warning, DO NOT use bleach on these stains. You will ruin your indigo! Instead of removing the stain, you will bleach white areas into your cloth that you cannot reverse. Trust me, I see many a ruined vintage African textile that someone tried to spot clean with bleach or a heavy solvent.
The African indigo textiles shown above are near the end of the 24 hour textile soak. As you can see, even though these vintage indigo textiles were already washed in hot soapy water, they still had plenty of dirt and grime stuck within the cotton fibers. I used this particular photo because the water gives you a good sense of what can be cleaned out of your vintage indigo textiles. Keep in mind, many of these vintage African indigo fabrics are nearly one hundred years old. Like a pair of old blue jeans, they will hang on to some of the wear and tear of their years, so a single wash in your machine won't likely get them back to their original glory. A good soak will get you a much cleaner fabric. When you are buying from my shop, this has already been done and is reflected in the pricing.
After the 24 hours has passed, wring out the African indigo and let the dirty water go down the sink drain. I don't like to put the dirty soapy water into my outdoor drains because they go directly the bay where my husband and I swim. Our indoor garage sink drain is the safest most environmentally friendly place to dispose of the soak tub water.
Finally, I fill the washing machine with water and a half cup of Synthropol textile soap. I don't add any Oxi-clean for this final wash because there is already plenty of soap in the cotton fibers after soaking. Run your washing machine on a gentle wash cycle.
I mentioned that you should not use bleach to spot clean any vintage indigo textiles. I stand by that. However, if you want to deodorize a vintage African fabric, you can use a cup of bleach in your wash. The best way to do this is to add the bleach to a full washing machine tub. Stir it around or agitate to dilute the bleach. Then you are ok to put the vintage indigo textile into the wash. These indigo fabrics have been worn or in use for many years and the color will not suddenly bleach out of the cloth. There have been times when I wanted to fade the indigo, and adding just one cup of bleach to the wash showed no effect.
I like to line dry my indigo textiles in the California sun but this isn't always possible. When the weather doesn't permit, I dry the indigo in my dryer on a regular setting. Once it's done, you are good to go.
A final note: not all stains will come out. Some vintage African indigo has paint or markings that simply won't budge without destroying the cotton fiber. Some yellow or rust-like stains won't let go even after multiple 24 hour soaks. You can live with these impossible to remove stains and understand that it's part of the personality, character, and history of the vintage textile.
Next time I'll touch on cleaning new pieces of African mud cloth. This is an entirely different process. Stay tuned.
The Kuba cloth pillow cover DIY project took me about four hours to complete. That's a long time just to make a square pillow. I found the Kuba cloth flat weave easy to handle, but because I took extra care at each step, including cutting the Kuba cloth, it was a lengthier process than normal.
photo: Morrissey Fabric
Continuing from part one of this Kuba cloth pillow cover tutorial, let's revisit the zipper. I stated that I have an old habit of baste stitching the zipper seam closed prior to sewing in the zipper. The photo of the Kuba cloth pillow cover above shows how I then pinned the zipper in place.
Since this Kuba cloth pillow cover is a high-end project, I attached finished ends at the top and bottom of the zipper. This is only necessary if you are using upholstery zipper yardage rather than a finished length zipper that already has a zipper stop. Or you can skip this step and simply bar tack or hot glue the ends to prevent the zipper pull from sliding off. When the Kuba cloth pillow cover is closed this detail won't be visible.
photos: Morrissey Fabric
Im spending a lot of time on the zipper because it isn't an easy step for many people. The photo above right shows the Kuba cloth pillow cover with the zipper seam basting stitch still in place. This is a good time to fix any crooked sewing if you are not happy with how you attached your zipper. If you are satisfied with your stitching, carefully open the basting stitch to expose the Kuba cloth pillow cover zipper. See upper left photo.
Now that your zipper is sewn into the Kuba cloth pillow cover, you can complete the rest of the pillow. With right sides of the Kuba cloth and linen facing together finish sewing the remaining three sides. Stitching a slightly rounded corner rather than a perfect 90 degree angle will result in a cleaner looking corner when working with a textile as heavy as Kuba cloth.
Once you have your finished Kuba cloth pillow cover complete, stuff with a pillow insert at least two inches larger than the Kuba cloth pillow cover. This Kuba cloth pillow cover finished at 22 in. X 22 in. so I inserted a 26 in. X 26 inch down filler. This is a bit extreme, but I wanted a really stuffed look to support the Kuba cloth rather than a soft finish.
photo: Morrissey Fabric
The final result is a one of a kind Kuba cloth pillow cover to suit many interior styles and color pallets. I hope some of my instructions inspired you to try making your own Kuba cloth pillow cover. And don't forget there are many ways to complete a pillow cover if you don't want to attach a zipper. You can always skip this step completely and hand stitch closed your Kuba cloth pillow cover.
Ihave a wide variety of kuba cloth textiles in the Etsy shop for you to choose from. Starting at $38, that's a nice way to DIY a $300 to $500 designer Kuba cloth pillow. nice way to diy a $300 to $500 designer Kuba cloth pillow.
I spend so much time managing my on line fabric business Morrissey Fabric that I don't get the opportunity to work with my hands as much as I would like. I've been wanting to sew some Kuba cloth pillows for months, so today I finally set to the task.
African Kuba cloth comes in many variations so I chose this small flat weave piece to keep it simple. The vintage Kuba cloth came from Africa and was an uneven size. I took my time measuring and trimming the Kuba cloth to get a nice 23 inch square.
If it had been winter, I might have chosen a black linen fabric or black suede for the back of this pillow. But with the weather reaching eighty degrees in Southern California today, I opted for natural flax color linen.
The photo above shows the fusible tricot interlining I applied to the back of the linen fabric to give it more heft. This is one of those techniques that will give a pillow a high-end look. I also prefer to take the extra step of overlocking (surging) all the cut edges to help prevent fraying. If you don't have your own surger, you could run an extra single needle stay-stitch along the cut edges.
photo: Morrissey Fabric
When sewing a Kuba cloth pillow cover, I also like to sew a finished piece of cloth at each end of the zipper prior to attaching it to the pillow cover. This will prevent the zipper from coming apart over time as the zipper is opened and closed. If you are using a pre-sized zipper it will already have zipper stops in place. I use zipper yardage so I can cut any length needed. It takes a bit of practice to efficiently put a zipper pull onto zipper yardage. I used a number 5 zipper for this project.
The Kuba cloth pillow is nearly completed. I sew one of the side seams closed prior to attaching the zipper. This isn't the most professional way to sew in a zipper, but it does work well if you want to sew the zipper along one of the seams rather than along an opening in the linen back side. You could also use an invisible zipper, but given the hearty nature of the vintage African Kuba Cloth I preferred to use an upholstery weight zipper.
I will post the final steps of this African kuba cloth project within the next few days. Stay tuned.
if you want to try creating your own African Kuba cloth pillow, please visit my Etsy shop for a nice selection.