I picked up twenty pieces of shweshwe fabric from Mnandi Textiles while in Cape Town. The colors and prints are vibrant and beautiful. I’m not sure how I’ll use these – maybe start with another tsunokoburo or incorporate into patchwork or book covers? – but I wanted to preserve a photo before I wash the starch out of them.
Each piece is approximately 18 by 20 inches in size and the back is stamped with an indication of authenticity.
From the Meerkat Shweshwe website:
Users are skilled at verifying the fabric’s authenticity by touch, smell and taste to ensure that they are purchasing the genuine fabric and not reproduction or fake cloth. The indigo also fades with washing in a similar manner to denim. The Three Cats range is sourced from a closed library of designs whereas the Three Leopards range introduces new designs on a regular basis. Isishweshwe has a distinctive prewash stiffness and smell: the answer lies in its production and history, when during the long sea voyage from the UK to South Africa, starch was used to preserve the fabric from the elements and gave it a characteristic stiffness. After washing, the stiffness disappears to leave behind a beautiful soft cotton fabric.
The pieces are quite stiff and have a strong but pleasant odor. I tried tasting one, but didn’t detect anything special!