MATERIAL: The Women’s Weavers group we work with was started back in 1988 as a small workshop providing an income to women in the area through the production of local crafts. It has grown to be one of the largest communities of sisal weavers in Kenya, employing over 1000 women and exporting to both national and international markets. The organization is run by the weavers themselves, providing a model for a self-sustaining business with embedded leadership. Malaika Cotton is proud to have partnered with this group of strong cool women.
CARE: Be careful when stacking your baskets as this can alter their shape. If your basket gets squashed, don’t panic, you can remould it by spritzing lightly with water and draping over a bowl or pot of a similar shape. Keep your basket dry, they’re all made from natural materials and will deteriorate if damp. If using your basket as a plant pot, be sure to either line it with a thick plastic or keep your plant in a smaller plastic pot on a saucer. Keep away from direct sunlight to keep the colors bright. The dyed sisal will fade if exposed to strong sunlight, although this effect can be really pretty! If you need to wash your basket, handle with care! Hand wash in a sink or bucket full of water that is comfortably warm to the touch (not hot!), adding a mild soap. Gently massage the fabric until it appears to be clean, then rinse the fabric with clean water until suds no longer appear. To dry, place the basket onto a towel and gently fold the towel over it to extract excess water and/or simply hang the basket to drip dry. Do not twist or wring as this can lead to the basket being pulled out of shape.
MATERIAL: Soapstone is a soft rock that derives its name from its soapy texture. It contains talc, and the hardness or softness depends on the amount of talc in a rock. The rock type used in stone carving has lower amounts of talc, which makes it easier to sculpture. The first step in soapstone sculpturing is mining soapstone. The carvers use shovels, hammers and other simple tools. Most of the quarries are in farms owned by families, which makes this trade a source of livelihood for many families. Mining is mainly done by men, and once they extract the soapstone for carving, the waste material is used in production of chalk powder and other products. Stone carving tools include machetes, knives and chisels. The men finalize the items, proceded by the women washing the items using sand paper to produce smooth, even surfaces. We are happy to be able to create more work opportunities in this area of Kenya.
CARE: In case your soapstone item will get scratched, follow these easy steps: Most scratches will disappear with a dab of soapstone oil. To permanently remove a deep scratch, use 120-grit sandpaper, sand the scratch area in a circular motion until the scratch is almost gone, then use 220-grit sandpaper with water added to the area. Once the scratch is sanded away, apply a light coat of soaspstone oil to the area. Repeat the oiling as necessary – two or three times over the next 72 hours in order to match the coloration of the rest of the stone. Oiling will enhance the luster and color of the soapstone, and restore that brand new look once again. Subsequent coats should be re-applied as needed.
WOOD / MANGO WOOD
MATERIAL: We make most of our wood items in mango wood because it is sustainable and beautiful in its own right. It adheres exceptionally well to staining and sanding, and features colors like browns, pinks, greens, and diverse patterns due to special fungus that grow in the wood. These marks are similar to the knots and rot marks we see in aged oak (these patterns do not impact the integrity of the wood, merely add to its visual impact). Mango wood is fundamentally the byproduct of an already thriving industry: mango fruit. Unlike the big towering oaks of North America and Europe that take 50-100 years to mature, mango trees mature quickly; reaching 80-100 feet in around 15 years. Once the trees get too tall for easy harvest of the fruit or stop bearing fruit altogether, they are harvested for timber and a new generation of trees is planted.
Harvesting wood that was previously burnt or left to break down naturally not only provides extra income to mango farmers, but provides furniture manufacturers with an affordable material that is easy to work with and can be made to resemble conventional wood choices like oak, maple and teak.
CARE: After use brush off or rinse in water and dry as any dishes. We suggest not washing in a dishwasher. Mango wood furniture is incredibly durable and water resistant but requires monthly polishing/hydrating to avoid cracking due to dehydration if you live in a dry or cold climate. Other than that, it is sturdy and maintenance free. Your mango wood items will simply grow more beautiful with age and should last for generations.
KITENGE WAX PRINT
MATERIAL: Some of our products are made from Kitenge wax print material. They are 100% cotton with a wax print top. Kitenge wears great and lasts for a very long time. Kitenge wax prints are commercially made and are roller printed. We select “Malaika Cotton” prints for each season.
CARE: When your wax print fabrics need cleaning, the most efficient method is to place them in the washing machine with a mild detergent and to select a non-spin cycle that never exceeds 30⁰C. Moreover, when you are cleaning your wax print fabrics you should separate them from your other clothing in order to prevent any unfortunate color running incidents from occurring. Once washed, hang your wet wax print fabrics on a clothing line and secure them in place with plastic pegs or fasteners that will not leave marks. Once fully dry, iron each piece of wax print fabric with the patterned side facing down. You can also leave your items with a dry cleaner, just make sure to tell them that this is a wax print material so they know how to best care for it.
MATERIAL: Each of our wool “Pemba” items are 100% wool. All made from wool that is carded, spun and dyed locally in Gill Gill, Kenya, where we work with a collective of wool weavers.
CARE: If wool gets wet, dry the garment at room temperature away from direct sunlight or heat. The rule of thumb for all pure wool clothing and blankets is to always wash in cold water and gently wring or use a delicate (washer) cycle and low action washer spin. A handwash cycle is also a good choice. It’s no longer necessary to handwash many woollen items, as most washers now have a delicate agitation cycle accompanied by a low spin. Heat can and usually does shrink woollens, reducing them in size and ruining their appearance. Cold water and gentle washing will help keep your woollens in good condition. This is why a dryer, regardless if it has an enhanced gentle or a tumble dry setting, is not recommended. Dry hang wool blankets outside in summer and let them air dry, but if that’s not possible, you could hang a slightly damp blanket over a door or clothes drying rack. A non-rusting shower or towel bar is also a good option.
MATERIAL: Cow and goat bone are very traditional materials for jewellery in Africa and we believe that it is important to keep this old tradition alive. We use bone to make buttons, spoons, plates and decorations. The material is first cut and smoothed into the wanted form such as individual pearls, knives, bracelets or napkin holders etc. It is then boiled in order to remove the oil in the bone. If the oil is not removed, it becomes difficult to color the pieces. As a final step the bone is dried in a container with black or any other color paint or left as it is, white.
CARE: Bone is very durable. If plain white (natural color) it can be washed in the dishwasher otherwise we recommend hand wash in lukewarm water to not fade the coloring.