BY ANNIE WATERMAN
Woven fabrics old for 21st century use
Situated in the heart of the Old Nick Village of Plettenberg Bay, Cape Town is the Living Weaving Museum, where founder Stuart Holding shares his love for old textile equipment and techniques. This is a working museum that houses 19th century power looms and serves as the sampling house that continues to produce Mungo Design’s specialty fabrics, from tea towels to finely woven textiles.
Stuart first became interested in weaving when, at the age of 16, he worked as an apprentice at an English Silk Mill. Five years later, he left the U.K. and ventured to South Africa, where he got married and immersed himself in various weaving projects, including Stuart Holding Fabrics. This later turned into a successful mohair production company. Eventually this enterprise was sold and Stuart moved on to his next venture. When his friend gave him a couple of antique looms that were being unused and neglected, the next business idea took form. After some restoration, he started up the museum and as its popularity increased, his quality fabrics quickly transformed into Mungo Design.
Originality is found within Mungo’s textiles, as this company continues to weave fabrics using the ancient Hattersley shuttle looms, and are inspired by century old weaving books that Stuart had been collecting over the years. They also use high-speed Dornier Rapier weaving machines and the antique shuttle looms were are now modernized to be power driven, and both are ideal for shawls, scarves and table runners. Mungo’s agent and correspondent Tessa Holding states, “All fabrics are of original construction. We work out a weight versus yarn ratio in order to create fabrics that have their own special texture and luster, thus making unique and durable weaves. Mungo Designs is actively reviving African resources and techniques, making us self-reliant throughout the entire production and manufacturing process so that we have freedom to control the steps from start to finish.”
All of Mungo’s fabrics are sourced from natural fibers, primarily cotton, linen, wool, mohair, chenille, and bamboo. They use Irish linen, which is “wet spun and woven” in South Africa, as well as viscose chenille, imported from Italy. All organic cotton is sourced from Africa. Mungo not only embraces quality, but also a positive working environment, as they keep everything fair and respectful. They currently employ 15 trained artisans from local communities whom Stuart has personally trained into skilled weavers and seamstresses.
As Mungo Design busily prepares for this coming winter season, they are working on a gorgeous new collection of blankets made of mohair and wool. Holding adds “The new Abigail line is adapted from an American 1800’s hand weavers’ design book. This pattern is derived from a family’s weaving studio and would have been woven by a young girl and served as her dowry. Many skilled weavers immigrated to the U. S. from Europe and took heirloom looms and traditions with them. Today, these woven fabrics are a beautiful piece of history.”
For more information, please visit: http://www.mungo.co.za