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African Wax Prints

Traditional and contemporary African designs

When most people think of African fabrics, the first thing that comes to mind is these traditional African wax prints.

Traditional - because they've been sold in African markets since the industrial revolution and many of the original designs are still popular today.

Contemporary - because today's designers are creating new patterns to reflect modern tastes, as well as putting a contemporary spin on traditional designs.

All 100% cotton, these genuine wax prints are made in Ghana. Dressmaking/craft weight: 150 grams per metre, approximately.

Fabrics are 115 cm / 45 in wide, approximately. Fat Quarters are 50 x 57 cm / 20 x 22 in, approximately.

Ordering lengths: African wax print fabric is cut into lengths in the factory and a paper label is stuck onto it near one end. We do not send out fabric with that label on it. Therefore, the longest single uncut length we can offer is 4.5 metres. If you order more than 4.5 metres, your fabric will come in more than a single piece. If in doubt, please contact us.

Per Fat Quarter: £4.10     Per metre: £16.40

More: About African wax print

About African wax print

As we point out in our book African Wax Print: A Textile Journey -

'African wax print fabric is a defining methaphor of African design, fashion and expression; an immediately recognisable icon throughout the world'.

Quite simply, it just says, 'Africa.'

All over - but especially West and Central Africa - wax print fabric is worn by women, men and children of every social standing, from humble farmers to elite politicians. It is tailored into elaborate dresses and suits and also worn as a simple wrapper or pagne.

The designs range from distinctively African motifs rooted in history to wacky object-based prints such as shoes, fans, bicycles - almost anything.

Wax print dates from the industrial revolution, when English and Dutch textile barons developed a way to mechanise batik production. The fabric found a market in West Africa and by the 1960s Europe was exporting millions of yards of fabric per year.

In the early days, wax was used to create a resist before dyeing the fabrics in industrial quantities. Today, a resin has replaced the wax. Some designs also require overprinting, originally by hand using wooden printing blocks.

Today, most of the fabrics you might think are wax print are not: they are cheap Chinese copies of the real thing, screenprinted onto poor quality cotton.

We do not sell Chinese fabrics. All of our wax print is made in Ghana - either by GTP or ATL - which are owned by the European companies Vlisco and A Brunnschweiler, respectively.

How do you recognise a genuine African wax print?

Wax print is printed on both sides of the fabric, not one side like a screenprint.

Wax print has two distinct irregularities: a slight misalignment of colour and design, plus a distinctive crackle effect caused by tiny cracks in the resin resist. We call these irregularities 'the perfect imperfection'.

Using African wax print

Genuine African wax print is very robust and stands up to years of washing. It's great for colourful and distinctive clothing. Many creative and innovative textile artists are using wax print in their quilts and wallhangings.

The images shown here are from our book 'African Wax Print: A Textile Journey'.
African wax print modelModel shows off African wax print fabric. Image courtesy of A Brunnschweiler & Co.
 
Wearing African wax print fabric in AfricaIn Africa, African wax print fabric is everywhere. Image © Robert Irwin.
 
African wax print crackle effectThe characteristic 'crackle' of African wax print fabric.
 
Creation Myth by Margaret RamsayCreation Myth © Margaret Ramsay.
 

Also available

More fabric: African Wax Print Indigos

Our acclaimed book: African Wax Print: A Textile Journey

Plus:  Vintage printing blocks from ABC Manchester

"Fascinating... a major step forward in telling the tale of African wax prints." John Gillow - textiles collector and author of African Textiles: Colour and Creativity Across a Continent.

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