I've been aware of African wax fabric for a little while. I think I saw it in the markets when we were living in London. And then I became aware of Yinka Shonibare's work, and saw an exhibition of his at the MCA, and the fabulous Ship in a Bottle on the plinth in Trafalgar Square. And somewhere along the line (probably via Yinka Shonibare) I stumbled on Vlisco, the Dutch company that has been making these fabrics that are so popular in Africa for over 100 years.
But the thing that has really put African fabric on my radar was my brother spending a year in Ghana and having lots of fabulous clothes made up in local material. He's now home and, as well as shirts and trousers, has brought back a backpack, converse-style sneakers and laptop pouches in brilliant colourful prints. And cute clothes for the children too (these ones, below, are actually batik, not wax fabric, but too sweet not to be photographed).
Poster from a Ghanaian dressmakers that my brother brought me. I'm going to put it up on the wall near my sewing machine.
While he was there I saw a couple of outfits that Zoe had made in wax fabric - a gorgeous Washi Dress & super cute baby outfit. And then I discovered Treadling in Benin, a blog by Cathy, a US Peace Corps volunteer in a country not far from Ghana, who whipped up incredible outfits on a treadle machine with local fabrics (check out this Colette Peony dress and this Parfait Dress). So then I started looking around for suppliers, and found this one locally, and this eBay store in the UK (there are lots more, that's just a couple I have been looking at).
And I recently bought a skirt pattern, Simplicity 2258, after seeing the version that Kathryn made. Kathryn said, and I agree, that a skirt that simple really needs a bright fabric, and soooooo I was thinking wax fabric might be perfect BUT I have been trying not to buy any more fabric until I use up more of what I have. But I don't really have anything suitable to make that skirt. So that's where I am now. Procrasting over pictures of fabric online and not letting myself buy any. Yet.
For anyone in Sydney there is a Yevu Pop Up shop, selling wax fabric fashions designed by an Australian girl who spent time in Ghana, in Surry Hills from this Friday. Details here.The jacket in the top photo is from there.
There's some more background on wax fabric in a blog post here, with some great photos.