We use a variety of materials in our work, all sourced from the local area to our workshop in Kasungu, Malawi, and wherever possible from recycled or sustainable sources. A key feature of all the products we make is that the materials are readily available, so that the women we work with can access those materials whenever they need them. This also ensures that we are supporting the wider economy of the local area.
We use 100% Malawian and Zambian cotton chitenge in our products. These fabrics are produced in an ever-changing array of limited edition prints if you see a design you like, grab it quick because they are rarely repeated! These fabrics are mainly sourced from a mill in Blantyre, in the south of Malawi. Where possible, our plain cotton comes from Toleza farm, a sustainable farming project in Balaka, also in the south. The Malawian prints are influenced by Tanzanian and West African Designs.
Sisal is made from a type of agave plant and is used to make bags to hold tobacco. They are commonly seen filled and piled high in big trucks during the tobacco harvest season, before the tobacco is taken to be sold at auction. Once emptied, the bags are resold to be used again. Readily available on the local market, but are not traditionally used in textiles like ours because of this, the women we work with were initially sceptical when we suggested using sisal but we won them round in the end.
Like sisal, the cotton rope we use for this is a by-product of the tobacco industry. It’s commonly used in farming and to sew the sisal into bags to carry tobacco. It isn’t generally used in textiles, and not seen by people in Malawi as a material with which anything special could be made. However, like sisal, it’s readily available on the market. Being 100% cotton easily takes dye, and we have found it very suitable for our crochet items.