You may have noticed the trendy patterned textile known as mudcloth making appearances in all your favorite home decor shops.
Mudcloth is a West African textile that’s recently become a hugely popular choice for designers and decorators. It’s been used in Western design for over half a century, but has recently surged in popularity and can now be found covering everything from pillows to bedroom walls.
For those who love the design, but are on a budget, you can DIY imitation mudcloth using our tutorial.
Mudcloth is a centuries-old Malian textile. It’s traditionally produced by stitching together handwoven strips of cotton fabric to make one long cloth (about 5 ft x 3 ft). The cloth is then soaked in a dye bath made from mashed n'gallama tree leaves. This turns the fabric a natural yellow color.
Artisans, traditionally women, then paint intricate designs made of rudimentary images and symbols onto the cloth with fermented riverbed mud. As the mud dries, it reacts with the dye so that even after the mud is washed off, the patterns remain.
In traditional Malian culture, mudcloth was worn by hunters for camouflage and women directly after childbirth, as the fabric was believed to absorb the dangerous forces that accompanied that time. Today, mudcloth is produced by a simpler method. The material is dyed yellow, then stenciled and painted with black designs. In this fashion, it is mass-produced for the tourist market, losing much of its tradition but remaining a symbol of Malian culture.
In traditional mudcloth production, every pattern was culturally significant. The images referred to mythology and proverbs or recalled historical tribal events. While traditional patterns are still produced, so are purely aesthetic designs, painted with different symbols and varying intricacies.
We’re going to demonstrate two techniques for making your own mudcloth-inspired fabric — tracing and stamping. The tracing method is simple and results in cleaner lines. The stamping method requires a little extra effort and results in a more textured finished product.
To begin, choose your pattern. We've created unique mudcloth pattern printables that you can use in both versions of this DIY.
This method allows you to be more precise with your design. This version can also be done with multiple colors to match your living room decor. Let's get started!
Materials you’ll need:
Step 1. Position your cutting board, pillowcase, carbon paper and printable pattern to trace with a pencil.
Place the cutting board inside the pillowcase to give yourself a hard surface to draw on. Then, place the carbon paper, carbon side or dark side down, onto the pillowcase. Put the printable pattern over the carbon paper with the pattern facing up.
Pressing firmly, but not hard enough to puncture the paper, trace over the pattern. This will transfer the carbon paper to the pillowcase fabric. If your pillowcase is bigger than the printed paper, you can move the pattern around. You can even mix and match patterns column-by-column to create your own design.
If you want your mudcloth-inspired design on both sides of your pillow, repeat on the other side of the pillowcase.
Step 2. Draw over the graphite pattern with a fabric marker.
Now that the pattern has been transferred onto the pillowcase, make the design pop by tracing over and filling in with a permanent fabric marker. Let the marker dry according to the directions on the package.
Step 3: Stuff your pillow and style in your apartment.
Use a pillow insert or pillow stuffing to fill your pillow to your desired firmness. Style in your living room as a unique statement piece.
For a pattern that will resemble the original mudcloth design, try creating a stamp. This pattern won't be as precise but will save you time and look just as good.
Materials you’ll need:
Step 1: Choose your pattern and cut out foam pieces.
Decide which patterns you’d like to use on your pillow. Place the printable on top of the foam and trace the shapes with a precision knife to cut them out. You’ll want more than one shape to create repeating patterns for your stamps.
Step 2: Glue foam shapes to craft wood. Add a wooden knob to the opposite side if desired.
Using a hot glue gun, adhere the foam to a small piece of crafting wood. You can also use children’s building blocks, thick cardboard or anything that makes stamping easier. We used craft wood.
You can use the same shapes on your stamp or mix and match. For more variety, create multiple stamps.
If you want, glue a wooden knob to the back of the stamp to form a handle. This isn’t necessary, but will make to makes it easier to work with the stamps.
Step 3. Paint fabric paint onto the stamp.
Generously paint the foam stamp with fabric paint. Be sure to layer on the paint, otherwise, it will not stick to the pillow as intended.
Step 4. Stamp your pillow.
Place your cutting board under or inside your pillowcase so that you have a hard surface to stamp on. Press down completely on the stamp and hold for ten seconds. Remove the stamp in one quick motion so that the paint doesn’t smear. Repeat until you are happy with your pattern.
Try using multiple stamps, to create your own unique pillow pattern. Allow one day for your paint to dry before painting the opposite side.
Step 5: Stuff your pillow and add it to your apartment decor!
That’s it! You can now dress up any furniture, whether it be a bed or chair, with your beautifully intricate mudcloth pillow.
To share this tutorial, download the full infographic.
Pillows aren't the only item you can create with this mudcloth tutorial. To give you more inspiration, we have DIY mudcloth ideas that you can include in your home.
Now that you’ve learned the art of making mudcloth, you can use these patterns or create your own for any project you can dream up. Try telling your own story with mudcloth inspired symbols to create something both beautiful and uniquely meaningful that you can proudly display in your apartment.