Latest news from The African Fabric Shop:
7 Apr 2020
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Courthouse Steps with Attitude

A rainbow of Shwe Shwe fabrics in our new quilt kit by Janice Gunner

What happens when Magie and our dear friend Janice Gunner get together over a G & T?

Answer: an exciting new quilt kit for The African Fabric Shop!

As an international award-winning quilter, Janice has been pushing the traditional log cabin block way past its limits for a long time: witness her how-to book Liberating Log Cabin.

Janice is also a big fan of our genuine Shwe Shwe fabrics from South Africa.

And there you have it - Janice's latest kit: Courthouse Steps with Attitude.

You can diplay it vertically or horizontally. It's great as a wallhanging or table runner. Available in two versions - 5 blocks and 3 blocks.

View and buy:

Courthouse Steps with Attitude © Janice Gunner

Genuine Shwe Shwe indigo

Genuine Shwe Shwe colours

How to tell if its genuine Shwe Shwe fabric

We only sell genuine Shwe Shwe fabric: woven and printed in South Africa at the home of Shwe Shwe - Da Gama Textiles.
But you have to be careful. In South Africa, there's more counterfeit Shwe Shwe from China in the shops than genuine Da Gama fabric.
Alarmingly, we've recently seen copycat Shwe Shwe fabrics promoted in the UK patchwork market.

So, how do you tell if its genuine Shwe Shwe?

  1. Check the historic 3 Cats backstamp. It must say 'Printed in South Africa by Da Gama Textiles'.
  2. Feel it. Genuine Shwe Shwe is very stiff because it's heavily starched in the factory. The starch washes out in the first wash at 30C.
  3. Check the width. Genuine Shwe Shwe is 36 inches or 90 cm wide.

Virtual Log Cabin: quilters respond to COVID-19

Thanks to COVID-19, for most of us life is on hold. Locked down. Locked in. And looking for something - anything - with a message of hope.
So we're comparing crisis notes on FaceTime, with our good friend Dionne Swift. As a textile artist and tutor, she's in the same boat as us: classes and exhibitions all cancelled.
What can we do to keep active and thinking positive thoughts?
'Let's make a virtual quilt,' says Dionne.
Within hours she had the project up and running on her website:, with Janice Gunner contributing the easy-to-follow instructions.
Now, less than a week later, over 100 quilters have made a block and uploaded an image to Dionne's website.

Stitchers worldwide - wherever you are - please join us to create a Virtual Log Cabin Quilt as a symbol of solidarity and co-operation.

Using your own fabrics: download log cabin block instructions and upload your quilt at:
Or: with every online order at we're enclosing a small packet of African fabrics and Janice's log cabin instructions. And that's for FREE!

Virtual Log Cabin Quilt on 6 April 2020: 104 blocks and going viral

Our friends across Africa are worried about us... what about them?

Handwashing is paramount in Musa's compound in The Gambia
When COVID-19 hit the UK big time two weeks ago, the WhatApps of concern started pouring in from our friends and suppliers in Ghana and The Gambia.
'We are praying for you, your family and the entire UK,' was their heartfelt message. Very moving.
At that time, Africa remained comparatively virus free. Since then, that's changed. Live tracking: coronavirus in Africa
Meanwhile, we're keeping in touch as well as we can. Everyone we know and love is fine so far. The correct advice  from WHO is there and people are mostly paying attention. But in countries where economic survival is fragile, can that last? What happens when feeding the family over-rides everything else?
On the other hand, acting responsibly as a community is a much stronger ethos in Africa than the west. It starts with family and encompasses villages.
That very idea underpinned the community response to Ebola and it was defeated. In African Arguments, anthropologist Paul Richards explains: What might Africa teach the world? COVID-19 and Ebola compared
We'll try to bring you more news in our next e-Newsletter.

NEW Kuba cloths from the Congo

What's so special about this lovely Kuba cloth?
Well, everything about it harkens back to pre-colonial African tribal art.
Totally natural. Raffia palm. Hand dyed. Handwoven. Simple, graphic pattern.
Plus, this piece is extra special because it's the rarer cut-pile type. We don't see many and this one's a beautiful example.
View our current collection of Kuba cloths

View and buy: this Kuba cloth

The kikoy dilemma: stripe or plain?

Choices, choices... don't leave home without one. Or two.
For as long as we've been bashing about Africa - and that's 35 years - we always have a pair of Kenyan kikoys in our kit.
No towels in the hotel? No problem.
Bit chilly under the air con? No problem.
Beach blanket or wraparound? Perfect. (Not that we ever go to the beach, that is.)
We've got a marvellous selection of colours on the website.
So which do YOU prefer:
  • Stripes, or
  • Plain?
View and buy: Kikoys

Indigo innovation from Bandiagara, Mali

All over West Africa, indigo dyers use various resist techniques to create their designs. In Guinea, Burkina Faso and Mali, stitching and tieing dominate. In the Senegambia, dyers add wax stamping to their repertoire. Adire cloth from Nigeria utilises a starch resist paste made from cassava.
Now in the Bandiagara region of Mali, a new idea is suddenly in vogue. Instead of applying a resist before dipping the cloth in the indigo vat, artisans are dyeing the whole cloth in indigo first.
Then, they use a stencil to apply a discharge paste to remove the indigo, creating their pattern.
View and buy: our latest indigo cloths

View and buy: this indigo cloth from Bandiagara, Mali

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More new ideas coming your way soon!

Staying connected in tough times

Few of us have ever experienced anything like the uncertainty, anxiety and - let's be honest: genuine fear - we are feeling as we try to cope with this  pandemic.

We think 'staying connected' is important right now for many reasons.

  • For those who are isolated - both physically and emotionally - a renewed sense of community can help a lot. 
  • Our small, fair trade business needs sales to survive.
  • Our suppliers - small scale artisan makers in Africa - need our business, now more than ever.
For a full listing of African Fabric Shop events, refer to our website:
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