Category Archives: Pattern Play

Elei Fabric from Samoa

So, I had always intended to help people around the world with microloans through an organization like Kiva. But as happens with many good intentions, I never did it. Well I did now. I came across Kiva and saw they are encouraging microloaning to female entrepreneurs right now, in a campaign for International Women’s Day. For only $25, you can help make a difference in a family’s life.

I decided to see if any women were doing the things I like to do, as the path to feed their families and educate their children. I browsed the Arts lending category at Kiva, and found women in Samoa who make fabric! It’s called Elei and they make it with paint, stencils and carved wood patterns! I contributed microloans ASAP. I hope the loans help make the business dreams of these women come true, for themselves and their families.

And that’s when I discovered the art of Elei fabric …

I learned that Elei fabric artisans often make stencils with old X-ray film. The stencil designs make wonderfully bold patterns, like these pillows from JO’LI Elei Designs:

JO'LI ELEI Fabric Pillows

From Samoa’s Elei Crafters & Events website, wouldn’t this tablecloth pattern mix wonderfully with today’s popular bohemian/tropic/jungalicious style?

Elei Fabric Pattern

And oh goodness, if you want to see more pattern deliciousness, click through to A’au-Elei and see more, much more, like this:

aau_elei-Elei-Fabric-Design

A series of photos on Flickr shows you some of the process, from a fabric printing workshop at the Museum of Samoa:

Elei Fabric Printing from Museum of Samoa

The Gift Hutt’s catalog of resort wear on Slideshare gives you an idea of the pretty and very “vacationy” caftans and dresses that can be made with Elei fabric and patterns:

The Gift Hutt Resort Wear Elei Fabrics

The Gift Hutt Elei Fabric Caftan

And now, I’m itching so bad to jump on an airplane for a tropical vacation on a Pacific Island. Of course I would come back with a suitcase loaded with Elei fabrics!



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Adinkra Cloth: Symbols to Tell a Story

In the U.S., we don’t usually wear our hopes, dreams and wishes on our clothes. Well, except for when you want your sports team to win! We don’t weave talismans and protections into our fabric, even when we feel vulnerable to things that affect us. Should we? There is a way to do it without being obvious. Like, you don’t have to print “I want the winning lottery ticket” on a T-shirt. You can use symbols to tell your story. And the combination of symbols can be beautiful. We can learn from how other cultures weave meaningful stories into their fabrics, like the Adinkra cloth of Ghana.

Here is Adinkra cloth from the Smithsonian:

Adinkra Cloth from Smithsonian

From Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco:

Adinkra Cloth from Museum of Fine Arts San Francisco

From Hamill Gallery:

Adinkra Cloth from Hamill Gallery

The black patterns are printed, and the colorful areas are made with embroidered threads. Here’s a close-up of the cloth from Hamill Gallery, so you can see the print and embroidery:

Adrinka Cloth Closeup from Hamill Gallery

Adinkra cloths have caught my eye for awhile — the lively mixes of patterns! — and I got curious to learn more and do a post about them.

These symbols are from the Akan culture in Ghana. They use these Adinkra symbols to decorate things like wood objects, pottery, jewelry and fabric. Traditionally these designs were reserved for the Asante kings, but now more people in Akan culture wear the cloth for important occasions.

Here you see that drawing a comb over the fabric creates lines:

creating-andrika-cloth

Just like with the more popular mud cloth and kuba cloth, the symbols in Adinkra cloth have meanings, Some symbols represent more complex ideas like proverbs and folk tales, others show simple images like plants. Master artisans and elders know how to match the symbols into combinations that tell stories. From Aaron Mobley Heart of Afrika Designs, here is a chart showing the meanings of many symbols – click here or click on the image to open a bigger picture where you can read the words:

aaron-mobley-heart-of-afrika-designs-adinkra-symbol-meanings

The symbols are pressed into cloth with ink and stamps. The stamps are carved from gourds:

Adinkra Stamps Carved from Guords

Oh my! If I spotted these on the roadside while traveling through Ghana! From Flickr:

Adinkra Cloth Stamps in Ghana Flickr

 

If you’d like to use these symbols, the graphics at Adinkra.org were made for you to use for personal, non-profit and educational purposes. Save them and open them in a graphics program. Create art and digital fabric designs. Print them and transfer the images onto fabric or wood. You can carve your own printing blocks in foam.

If you were to choose Adinkra symbols to tell the story of your life, or your hopes and wishes, which would you choose?

Right now, I would choose:

Story of My Current Life Andikra Symbols

These symbolize things I’m dealing with right now:

  • Adaptability
  • Transformation
  • Initiative, Dynamism
  • Humility, Strength
  • Hardiness, Toughness, Perseverance
  • Unity, Human Relations
  • Support, Cooperation

Yeah, heavy stuff. But I have some work to do to change some things in my life. I wonder what these symbols would look like if they were made into a cloth! Maybe we will see …

 



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DIY: Affordable Faux Fortuny Fabric

Have you ever lusted after Fortuny fabrics, the luxury Italian brand where pillows can cost $500+? I’ve written about Fortuny fabrics before — how they can be costly, and how you can frame inexpensive sample sizes of Fortuny fabrics and hang them on a wall as art. Because Fortuny fabrics are works of art.

I recently made my own DIY Fortuny-style pillows, with silk fabric, stencils and shimmery paint! Here’s two of them on my living room sofa:

DIY Faux Fortuny Fabric

Today I’ll share with you:

  • The tutorial showing how to DIY your own faux Fortuny fabric
  • Real Fortuny pattern inspiration
  • Stencils that will give you the Fortuny look

STEP-BY-STEP TUTORIAL

For the steps to paint this fabric, tips to get the luxury look, and a supplies list, click over to my guest post at Paint+Pattern blogzine:

Stenciled Fortuny Pillows Tutorial

Two things I suggest at the tutorial post to get the rich Fortuny look:

  1. Use real silk fabric. I found that a heavier silk taffeta looks nice. I think silk dupioni is too slubby-looking for the fine Fortuny look, and thinner silks like crepe de chine are too flimsy. Taffeta is just right.
  2. Use the Royal Design Studio Stencil Cremes. They give just the right amount of luxurious shimmer to look like Fortuny.

Here you can see a close-up of the Stencil Cremes on my silk taffeta and silk velvet:

Royal Design Studio Stencil Cremes

Real Fortuny Pattern Inspiration

Now here are examples of real Fortuny fabrics, to give you some inspiration:

Fortuny Patterns

I think Fortuny’s damask patterns, like those shown above, give the classic antique and vintage Fortuny look. They also have tribal and Moroccan-inspired patterns, so there is variety to the Fortuny style.

Stencils to get the Fortuny look

It’s not a surprise that stencils can give you the Fortuny look, because Fortuny uses stencils. Here are a bunch of recommended stencils, all from Royal Design Studio, that can give you the classic Fortuny style.

First, for my pillows I used the Corsini Damask Stencil size Small and Damask Modern Masters Stencil:

Royal Design Studio Damask Stencils

Here are a few more ideas:

Delicate Floral Wall Stencil (left) and Donatella Damask Stencil (right):

Royal Design Studio Stencils

Encantada Damask Wall Stencil (left) and Florentine Damask Wall Stencil (right):

Royal Design Studio Damask Stencil

Fortuny Wall Stencil (left) Isle of Palms Damask Wall Stencil (right):

Royal Design Studio Damask Stencils

 

I think all of these would give you a Fortuny look! Now, some stencils cost more than others so you may also want to choose a stencil based on your project and whether you would re-use the stencil for other projects. I made three pillows for my living room sofas, and I’m sure I’ll be using these stencils again in the future. You can also stencil on bigger pieces of fabric to make bigger things:

  • Recover chair cushions
  • Make a long bench cushion
  • Stencil on a duvet
  • Make a wall hanging
  • Stencil on curtains

Royal Design Studio often runs sales. Sign up for their email list to get notices!

When stenciling on fabric, I recommend that you use a textile medium. It’s a liquid that you mix with paint so that the paint will stay softer and pliable after it dries, instead of crunchy feeling. You can find textile medium near the acrylic paints in a craft store. I also give more tips for using textile medium in the “faux Fortuny” tutorial post at Paint+Pattern — check it out!

 



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