Knowledge

  • No more plastic bags- get a Tommy tote

    From today the 5th of October, 2015, you will have to pay 5p for the use of a plastic bag to put your shopping in within the UK. This new law applies to all shops and stores with more than 250 employees. Apparently, over 7 billion plastic bags a year are handed out in stores across the UK.

    Plastic bags are not biodegradable and alarmingly can take up to a 1000 years to break down. Yes, that does sound bad. This new charge is the government’s bid to reduce its usage and the negative effects it has on the environment and wildlife.

    Wine and Gold Tommy Tote

    So quite simply, we think you should get yourself a handy and fun Tommy tote! Yes you can be eco-friendly and stylish at the same time. This multi-purpose bag is spacious, durable and folds into a neat little rectangle for storage. Even apart from the fact that this will save you money and looks cool, it is also much more comfortable to carry on the shoulder due to its wide straps. Where you would have had 3 or 4 shopping bags, you now only have to carry one.

    It also doubles up as a beach bag, a weekend bag or anything you want it to be really! It is handmade from a thick woven textile from Nigeria known as Aso-oke. Check out our collection here: www.urbanknit.com/tommy+tote and see which colour combination best suits your personality. You too can say no more plastic bags!

     

    By in Knowledge, Our Products
  • Iro and buba

    The iro and buba (pronounced “ee-roe” and “boo-bah”) are the most essential parts of a Yoruba woman’s traditional outfit. I say the iro and buba are essential because they are the skirt and blouse and are the basis for the outfit. The complete outfit in actual fact consists of 5 separate parts. The iro, buba, gele, pele and iborun which can be made in a variety of fabrics from affordable Ankara print, to Aso-oke as well as lace for more special occasions.

    1. Iro– wrapper/ a large piece of fabric worn as a wrap-round skirt
    2. Buba– the blouse
    3. Gele– the headtie/ head-dress
    4. Pele– a shawl that goes round the waist
    5. Iborun– shawl/scarf- a protection from the sun

     

    Yoruba women dressed in traditional Aso Egbé (ceremonial and society attire) Ìró, Bùbá, and Gèlè. ca. 1968.  Image from  Nigerian Nostalgia Project

    Ladies, Ladies, Ladies 1961. Dressed in Aso-Oke Iro and Gele Image from The Nigerian Nostalgia Project-http://nigerianostalgia.tumblr.com/

     

    This traditional outfit has been given a contemporary twist and these days, the younger generation often do away with the pele, iborun and gele and make the iro and buba more fitted, more varied and dare I say more stylish. This is embodied in the revival of the retro 60’s/70’s style of iro and buba known as ‘Oleku’. This word basically means ‘too hot’ or ‘to die for’ and identifies the version of the outfit which is a micro mini wrapper and a blouse with cropped sleeves.

     

    Oleku outfits by Ituen Basi

    Mix and match Ankara Iro and Buba- Image from Sola Dunn blog

    Block colour Iro and Buba- image from Jokotade blog,  outfit by House of Neakey

    The options are endless and you can make it to suit your own tastes and figure with beaded blouses, cropped wrappers and sleeves, modern-the ubiquitous sarong-style wrapper, using chiffon, silk, satin, linen, in a monochrome look, with block colours, with intricate patterns. Some designers have even come up with all-in-one dresses which when worn, look like the iro and buba combo.

    Silky Geisha Dress

     

    Adanna Iro and Buba on Etsy

    Adanna Iro and Buba on Etsy

    Dela (Iro and Buba)

    Dela Iro and Buba on Etsy

     

    Tiffany Amber Silk Lily Twist Dress

    Anything goes! So these are just a few ideas. How do you wear yours? If you are looking for some design inspiration for your next iro and buba outfit  or just want to feast your eyes then check these out:

    1. Silk & Chiffon Iro & Buba- www.uk.pinterest.com/HoneydropA/silk-chiffon-iro-buba

    2. The Tulip Style- uk.pinterest.com/search/pins/?q=iro%20and%20buba%20tulip&term_

    3. Funky Buba versions: www.uk.pinterest.com/HoneydropA/blouse-substitute-for-buba/

    Here is also a short tutorial on how you can create the tulip twist style of the iro and buba courtesy of Tradsloft over on Youtube.

     

     

    By in Knowledge
  • Adire Patterns: Story Telling Through Adire

    We are huge fans of batik fabric, in particular Adire which is the type of tie dye fabric popular among the Yoruba people of Southern Nigeria. If you have a look at our products made with Adire, you get a sense of various patterns that are repeated across the fabric. Each of these patterns have very specific meanings.

    indigo batik shawl

    Indigo Red Batik Clutch

    Indigo Blue Batik Blazer

     

    Although I knew what some of these symbols represented, I have always wanted a catalogue of sorts, where they were all explained. I was extremely excited to learn of the new book Storytelling Through Adire: An Introduction to Adire Making and Pattern Meanings by Allyson Aina Davies which I purchased immediately.

    The book details very beautifully with illustrations what each of these patterns and symbols mean, each with a name and story. The stories are often words of advice from the elders, or a means of documenting social, economic and environmental conditions. With symbols such as Adé- Crown, Eegun-eja- fish bone, Ewé ẹ̀gẹ́- Cassava leaf and many more.

     

     

     

    With the collection of symbols on each piece of cloth, we start to see a story unfolding in this unique cross between art and functionality. If you are interested in African fabric design and in particular Adire patterns, I would definitely recommend this book. It is a great resource. I love the fact that each piece we make out of Adire gives you a small piece of a much larger story. A little portion of Yoruba history and wisdom!


    FOR MORE INFORMATION:

    Please check out Adire Patterns website for more information: www.adirepatterns.com

    Adire Patterns Twitter handle: @AdirePatterns

    WHERE TO BUY THE BOOK:

    The book is available in the following places.

    • ONLINE on Amazon
    • STRANGER: 3 Hakeem Dickson, Lekki Phase One, Lagos, Nigeria
    • QUINTESSENCE: Park View Estate Entrance, Off Gerrard Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigeria
    By in Books to Read, Knowledge
  • Alpaca- The luxurious option

    Aren’t Alpacas just so cute. Apart from their cuteness they also produce Alpaca Yarn a lustrous and silky natural fiber and tends to be warmer and not prickly in comparison to wool. It is also soft and luxurious and tends to have a glossy shine compared to regular wool.

    image courtesy of this greenearth.wordpress.com

    The Alpaca yarn we use in our extra chunky cowls are of the Peruvian variety. Alpaca is often compared to cashmere with the latter seen as one of the most luxurious fibres especially in the production of fashion pieces. Interestingly Alpaca is now seen as a far better alternative to cashmere.

    Midnight Blue Alpaca Cowl

    Extra Chunky Knit Alpaca Cowl/Snood in Midnight Blue

    The grasslands required to sustain cashmere producing goats are vastly depleted in China as a result of a great interest in the fibre in the 90s which lead to a continuous fall in its price. In addition to that fact, Alpacas literally have a smaller environmental footprint than goats, where their soft, padded feet are gentler on the terrain and they can graze without destroying root systems. With a faster rater of wool growth, they also produce far more wool than goats do in the same amount of time.

    A fact that we quite liked here at Urbanknit is that a human is involved in every step of the process to convert the fibre to usable yarn!

     

    Alpaca Cowl

    Extra Chunky Knit Alpaca Cowl/Snood in Cream

    As though you need more, here are more reasons to love Alpaca!

    • Alpaca is similar to cashmere in water absorption as both absorb almost no moisture.
    • Alpaca is soft and less itchy against the skin
    • Alpaca fiber is naturally hypoallergenic.
    • Alpaca is naturally windproof.
    • Alpaca features less shrinkage (washable).
    • Alpaca is highly breathable
    • Alpaca offers great warmth for the weight.
    • Alpaca keeps you warm in wet conditions.
    • Alpaca is flame resistant.
    • Alpaca is very low in static electricity.
    • Alpaca does not hold debris and stays cleaner for longer.
    • Alpaca is stain resistant and resists acquired odours.
    • Alpaca is all natural and biodegradable.
    • Alpaca has natural luster.

    Are you tempted to give it a try? Go on, you know you want to!

     

    By in Knowledge, Our Products
  • Introducing Adire

    Àdìre

    Adire pronounced (pronounced ah-d-reh) is the indigo dyed cloth made predominantly by Yoruba women in South-West Nigeria. The fabric is produced using a range of resist dye techniques. There are several techniques used to make adire ranging from tieing and stitching the areas that will resist the dye, to the use of wax for the same purpose. Additional methods also include hand-painted or stenciled designs directly onto cloth. The word Adire is now used more generically to refer to various resist dye fabrics in Nigeria.

    Adire Blue

    Traditional Adire

    Modern Adire

    Modern Adire

    Indigo in West Africa

    Indigo was the basis of numerous textile traditions throughout West Africa. Indigo in West Africa was obtained from local plant sources, either indigofera or lonchocarpus cyanescans and transforming the raw material into a dye was a complex process requiring great expertise.  The art of indigo dyed cloth was a highly valuable skill passed on by specialist dyers from generation to generation. From the Tuareg nomads of the Sahara to Cameroon, Senegal and Mali indigo cloth signified wealth, abundance and fertility. Among the Hausa of Northern Nigeria, where the export trade in prestige textiles was highly organised, male dyers working at communal dye pits were the basis of the wealth of the ancient city of Kano. Sadly this has seen a fast decline due to cheap imports from Asia as well as the unrest and violence experienced in the region. Watch this BBC piece on the current situation.

    Kano Dye pits

    Kano Dye pits Image courtesy of BBC News

     

    I find the various dyeing techniques quite interesting as they involve threading, stitching and tying the fabric similar to the Japanese Shibori methods of tie dye.  Shibori is a Japanese term for several methods of dyeing cloth with a pattern by binding, stitching, folding, twisting, compressing it, or capping. They have beautiful names such as Kanoko shibori, Itajime shiboriMiura shibori, Kumo shibori and Nui shibori. Each of these describes a specific method used to achieve a certain result. In Japan, the earliest known example of cloth dyed with a shibori technique is said to date from the 8th century. Check out this wonderful blog that features a daily post on various Japanese textiles- www.dailyjapanesetextile.wordpress.com/

     

     

    Mino Shibori Juban

    Mino Shibori style used on man’s juban
    Image courtesy of dailyjapanesetextile.wordpress.com

     

    Looking through books and images, there are so many similarities between some of the traditional Japanese fabrics and the Nigerian ones I grew up wearing.

     

    Adire

     

    As with most things, there is now a modern twist to tie and dye fabric especially in West Africa. Adire is not quite as popular as the ubiquitous African Wax Print but I am one of the many champions of the cause! Check out how we’ve mixed up the gorgeous fabric here on Urbanknit.

    Are you a fan of the traditional style of indigo? Or do you adore brightly coloured modern Adire? Share your thoughts!

     

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    By in Knowledge
  • Colour of the Year 2014: Radiant Orchid

    Expressive, exotic Radiant Orchid blooms with confidence and warmth

    Every January, Pantone declares a colour of the year. This year it is ‘Radiant Orchid’ said to be a captivating, magical, enigmatic purple.

    So I am going to be slightly smug and say we saw this coming *insert appropriate smiley*. The reason is because last year we introduced a new snood colour and guess what it was? Well we called it Lilac it is certainly close relatives with Radiant Orchid.

    Radiant Orchid Batik cushion

    Lilac Wool Cowl

    So I am wishing you a very Happy New Year, one of new beginnings, exciting adventures and a lot to be thankful for at the end of the year. We hope you join us as we bring you new products, news about fun and interesting things in the design world from our own view point. We would of course love to hear from you. So do leave a comment if something catches your attention!

    By in Knowledge
  • Adinkra

    “What I hear, I keep “

    Adinkra are the distinct and instantly recognisable motifs and symbols used in Ghanaian culture particularly by the Akan people. They are commonly seen in fabric but also used on pottery, furniture, in architecture and so on. Though extremely beautiful and decorative, each symbol represents various messages,  proverbs and concepts.

    A brief history

    Adinkra cotton cloth was originally produced by the Gyaaman clans of the Brong region and was worn only by royalty and spiritual leaders and used for important ceremonies such as funerals and weddings. Traditionally, adinkra aduru a special ink was used in the printing process. Apparently this is produced by boiling, soaking and beating the bark from the Badie tree. The symbols where then applied to handwoven fabric using stamps. The creation of this type of cloth is believed to have begun as far back as the 17th century. Beautiful!

    There is a great website that catalogues all the symbols with their associated meanings. http://www.adinkra.org

    The site’s mission is to make available high-quality renditions of these African symbols at no cost for personal and non-profit uses. The site was designed to be user-friendly in Africa and anywhere else where slow and erratic internet connections can be a problem.

    Please show them some love! There is a wealth of knowledge there.

    I am completely and utterly in love with the history, ideas and stories embodied in these symbols. They are a simple and bold representation of history and sometimes complex concepts steeped in the tradition. The bold graphic nature of the motifs also appeal to me. Below are some of my favourites (I lie…I love them all).

    adin_lg

     

     
     
     
     
     
    ADINKRAHENE
    “Chief of the adinkra symbols”
    symbol of greatness, charisma and leadership
    This symbol is said to have played an inspiring role in the designing of other symbols. it signifies the importance of playing a leadership role.

    asas_lg

     

     

     

     
     
     
    ASASE YE DURU
    “the Earth has weight”
    symbol of providence and the divinity of Mother Earth
    This symbol represents the importance of the Earth in sustaining life.
     

    bese_lg

     

     

     

     

    BESE SAKA
    “sack of cola nuts”
    symbol of affluence, power, abundance, plenty, togetherness and unity
    The cola nut played an important role in the economic life of Ghana. A widely-used cash crop, it is closely associated with affluence and abundance. This symbol also represents the role of agriculture and trade in bringing peoples together.
     

    denk_lg

     

     

     

     

    DENKYEM
    “crocodile”
    symbol of adaptability
    The crocodile lives in the water, yet breathes the air, demonstrating an ability to adapt to circumstances.
     

    duafe_lg

     

     

     

     

    DUAFE
    “wooden comb”
    symbol of beauty and cleanliness; symbols of desirable feminine qualities
    The duafe was a prized possession of the Akan woman, used to comb and plait her hair and embodies abstract qualities of feminine goodness, love and care, looking one’s best and good hygiene.
  • We’re Social!

     

    Did you know we are everywhere? So do join us on our journeys on your favourite social site.

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    Join us!

     

    By in Knowledge
  • Emerald: Colour of the year

    “Lively. Radiant. Lush… A color of elegance and beauty
    that enhances our sense of well-being, balance and harmony.”

    Every year Pantone declare a colour of the year and this year it is Emerald Green. The specific green is referenced as PANTONE 17-5641 Emerald.

    Green comes in so many shades and really does have a wide spectrum of shades and hues. My favourite is actually a deep Forest Green and you can’t go wrong with Lime Green!

    What is your favourite colour?

    By in Knowledge
  • Five Fave Blogs

    Do you have your default go-to blogs where you know you will always find something interesting, that appeals to you sense?

    Here are my favourite five blogs. These five embody my interests in architecture, entrepreneurship, handmade, furniture design, fashion and quirky creativity. They are perhaps not entirely blogs but hey.

    1. The Sartorialist- www.thesartorialist.com/

    2. Design Milk- www.design-milk.com/

    3. Red Lemon Club- www.redlemonclub.com/

    4. I Am The Lab- www.iamthelab.com/

    5. Creative Boom- www.creativeboom.co.uk

    What are yours?

    By in Knowledge