Stumbling across Ankara fabric last year changed my life. The large-scale designs, the brilliant colors, the vibrant Ankara sewing community...I was hooked.
Ankara is generally a cotton fabric, dyed using a wax process. The resulting fabric is nearly identical on both sides. It's a versatile, medium-weight woven that resists wrinkling and is pleasant to sew and comfortable to wear. What's not to love?
A bit of googling informed me that the fabrics were originally of Dutch origin, and quickly became adopted in Africa. Today, Ankara production is mostly African-inspired and African-owned. Wikipedia covers the fabric's background rather well.
What the Wikipedia article doesn't mention, is that many of the design elements have meaning. Being of mostly Irish descent, I love the idea of a story being told - in this case, through fabric! More importantly, you can buy Ankara that is made in Africa. If that seems like an odd statement, please investigate where your sewing fabric is made. I find most of the fabric in chain stores is made in China.
There is nothing wrong with Chinese fabric per se. Someday I hope to add authentic Chinese designed and made fabric to my collection of African, American, German, Irish, Japanese, and US materials. What I'm not into, is mass-produced imitations of other cultures' fabrics. JoAnn Fabrics "tribal prints" are a perfect example of this: cheap one-sided quilting cotton printed with a sort of kente print. Made, yes, in China.
We live in a fast, possession-heavy society. I'm no exception, and have opted for convenience or low cost more than once. Yet, we can choose to value authenticity, and appreciate the genuine. When you sew, you are creating something new, and you spend hours with your hands on that fabric. Choose that fabric wisely.
Most of my Ankara collection comes from Ankara Malkia - fantastic service owned and operated by the wonderful Roni Gordon.
Next post: first Ankara project completed!