Friday, February 25, 2011

What exactly IS raffia?

What is eco-friendly and has many uses? Yep, you guessed it, Raffia. Used for items such as purses, fabric, baskets, rugs and even wallcoverings, Raffia comes from Raffia palms that are found in Africa and Central and South America. The membrane on the underside of each individual frond leaf is taken off to create a long thin fibre which can be dyed and woven as a textile into products ranging from hats to shoes to decorative mats. This incredibly durable fabric is amazing for any upholstery job and is often used for lounge chairs at beach resorts.
 Tribal artists from ancient cultures from Madagascar to the Congo have used Raffia for centuries as a decorative element to create ceremonial clothing, embellish masks and create beautiful accessories such as rugs, mud cloths, embroideries, wall decorations and baskets.

The palm frond’s membrane is not the only thing that this amazing natural resource provides. So as to not waste the tree and all the resources it provides, when cultivating the trees they cut a box in the top of the palm and suspending a large gourd to collect the milky white sap. The palm’s sap contains natural sugar. When first cultivated it is very sweet, as it sits it begins to ferment and converts more sugar. The sap is usually called wine and is often distilled into strong liquors called Ogogoro.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Patterns: Ikat

Somewhere between showing off wealth and showing off love for The Grateful Dead lies a fabric called Ikat. Perhaps that needs a little more explanation: Ikat is a type of fabric that utilizes specific methods of weaving (the word means "to tie" or "to bind" in Indonesian) and a dipping dying method similar to that of tie-dying. Because its creation was so time consuming, it was often a status symbol of wealth and power. Ikat burst back onto the uber-chic interiors scene several years ago, first from high-end ateliers like Madeline Weinrib and worldwide fabric collectors like John Robshaw, and later from big box stores like Target. After that, it quickly caught on in fashion, with designers such as Oscar de la Renta and Matthew Williamson embracing the print style and using it on bags, scarves, shoes and dresses.

During its time in the spotlight, a trend usually hits the tipping point somewhere between Matthew Williamson and Target, becomes passe, and goes dormant until someone decides to bring it back a decade or so later. However, this has not happened with ikat. Instead, designers have looked beyond the first navy blue and white iteration and explored the many different colors and patterns available in the ikat spectrum. Because ikat has such a long history and tradition in far-flung places from Bali from Bolivia and from Cambodia to Uzbekistan, there are plenty of color combinations, styles, patterns, scales and sizes for designers to choose from, ensuring that ikat is here to stay. Enough jibber-jabber, let me show you what I am talking about.
Check out all the amazing Ikat patterns at

Courtesy of Houzz Design Newsletter