Born in South Africa into a family of creative makers, stitchers and knitters, it’s no surprise that I love shweshwe. This traditional 100% cotton print evokes many memories, the first of which is as a little girl in the fabric warehouses of Cape Town with my mother as she bent over the bolts making decisions. It is an aromatic memory: the sweet starchy smell of sizing, used to protect shweshwe for its sea voyage from Manchester in Britain to South Africa, comes to me when I think of those excursions.
In 2001 I moved to Canada with my family, and our visitors from South Africa would bring gifts of shweshwe to add to my stash for sewing projects.
In the summer of 2013, my husband and I were privileged to visit the producers of Shweshwe: Da Gama Textiles in Zwelitsha, where we learnt that there are inferior quality copies of this heritage fabric being produced at present and that cash strapped consumers in South Africa have been snapping them up.
Da Gama Textiles is an equal opportunity employer, maintaining ethical standards of production. They will not cut costs by compromising their quality or employment standards; however, due to the impact of inferior copies not made in South Africa, they have had to downsize considerably, which has had an enormous impact on their local community.
By developing an export market, they will be able to increase production and provide much needed employment once again.
I am thrilled to introduce Three Cats Original Shweshwe to sewing enthusiasts all over the world, so that while we enjoy this unique fabric we are also part of the initiative to provide employment for more South Africans.