While researching for a new Thai textiles tour I came across a village in North East Thailand that produces a fermented mud cloth. This intrigued me as although I had heard of the Mud Cloths of Africa I didn't know that they were produced any where in Asia.
Thai Mud Cloth
There seems to be very little information on what makes a Thai Mud Cloth - but from what I have been able to find - is that fermented mud is used to soften yarn and intensify the colour of cotton or silk yarns after they are dyed with natural dyes. This is very different to African mud cloth - but I'm really interested to see these super soft fabrics and the colours they achieve.
African Mud Cloth
African mud or Bogolanfini is traditionally produced using a cotton cloth woven by the men of the tribe and then given to the women to dye and decorate. The women dye the cloth in baths of locally found leaves and branches of trees to produce a yellow coloured cloth. This cloth is then dried in the sun and patterns are painted on with a special mud, which had been collected from ponds during the previous seasons and left to ferment. As the cloth dries, the dark black mud turns grey and the cloth is washed to remove excess mud. This process is repeated numerous times and with each application, the mud-painted area of the cloth becomes darker. The areas without the mud patterns are then painted with a bleach, which turns them from yellow to brown. The cloth is left to dry in the sun for a week. When the bleach solution is washed off with water, what remains is the characteristic white pattern on a dark background.
Just one of the many things that makes traditional mud cloth so special is that each piece has a story to tell. Even the arrangement of the symbols on the cloth reveals something secret about the intended meaning, and this language of the cloth was passed down from mother to daughter.
http://www.mnh.si.edu/africanvoices/mudcloth/index_flash.html. - There's a great site on the Smithsonian where you can design your own mud cloth
http://africaimports.com/catalogs/mudclothflier.pdf - a fantastic piece on all things to do with mud cloth.
I started running my textile focussed tours back in 2007. Over the years I've seen some of the most gorgeous textiles made by the most gorgeous women. This blog is a reflection on some of these