Hand-dyed cotton, more than three thousand woven threads and six days of work just for one item: are you ready to fall in love with kikoi?
Kikoi, a traditional Tanzanian fabric
Kikoi is a cotton fabric which is very common in the African countries bordering the Indian Ocean, in particular in Tanzania. Traditionally, the fabric comes as a one meter wide and one meter and sixty long cloth, with colored stripes along the edges and fringes on the short sides. People normally use it wrapped around the body, like a sarong.
The past and present of kikoi
One of the most widespread fabrics in the country, nowadays kikoi is mostly an industrial product.
However, there are still some small workshops that produce it according to the tradition, following a process that takes a lot of effort: and here’s the magic. Cracode is one of these workshops, one of the last ones in Dar es Salaam to hand down this manual knowledge generation from generation: here, Mama Kishimbo and her associates made our clothes.
Six days to create magic
It all starts with the choice of the cotton yarn, that is hand-dyed and left to sun-dry for two days. Then, on the wooden loom, the artisan creates the warp one thread at a time, based on each specific design.
The quality of the final product depends on the number of threads per centimeter: our kikoi has 23 – meaning that a shirt can contain up to 3500 threads (!). When the warp is ready, the weaving begins. Weft threads are woven into warp threads, changing color when necessary to create the patterns, like our checks or the traditional side stripes. It's a slow job that requires know-how, patience and also a lot of strength.
We fell in love with this fabric for many reasons: for its rough texture and natural look, the bizarre fringes, and the unpredictable result, unique by definition.
Producing kikoi requires time and patience: at least two people and six overall days of work for each item. It is a living and complicated fabric that we love because it gives a true and profound idea of the African textile culture. By wearing kikoi, you wear history and culture, together with the time and love it required to be made.