What is Shweshwe?



Shweshwe is a 100% South African cotton fabric that is produced using traditional methods.


The indigo fabric “Shweshwe” (also known as “Shoeshoe” or “Isishweshwe”) is named after the legendary Basotho Chief Moshoeshe the First.  In 1840, French missionaries presented Moshoeshe I with this material as a gift. The chief and his subjects developed a great fondness for this material. To date, the proud women of Basotho clothe themselves in Shweshwe for special occasions. The fabric is part of the traditional costumes of the Basotho and is carried to important ceremonies in rural areas.


Today, a British-South African Company called Da Gama Textiles, which has the sole production rights, produces “Shweshwe” in Zwelitsha in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. Shweshwe is still produced in the traditional way using the so-called “Blue Print” copper-fed printing method. This exotic material has a distinctive fragrance and stiffness before the first wash. These properties are due to the traditional production process. After the first wash, the beautiful cotton fabric is soft and odorless. Recently, Shweshwe has become increasingly popular with western fashion designers. 


Shop Shweshwe HERE

Shweshwe-skirt: sewing instructions

How to sew a Shweshwe-skirt with 4 shweshwe-material-coupons:


Material: 4 Shweshwe fabric coupons (each 33cmx85cm), elastic waistIMG_0476_clipped_rev_1IMG_0477_clipped_rev_1

  1. Take hip measurements
  2. Halve coupons 3 and 4 lengthways


  1. Front skirt: Sew fabric coupon 1,3A, 4A lengthwise right to right
  2.  Back: Sew fabric coupon 2 and 3B and 4B together as well


  1. Sew on small flounces (2.5cm length) at the seams (iron in beforehand!) By ironing the upper fabric 2.5cm from the seam and sew the pleats again at the seam.
  2. Iron the front and back skirt once
  3. Sew a 2.5cm hem on each side of the skirt (front and back)
  4. put skirt sides right to right
  5. Cut to body measurements and sew right to right front and back together.IMG_1501

    10. Sew on the loop at the top and pull in the rubber band, sewing on the waist width

Have fun!

Judith Singer              


Ladies! I am pleased to introduce all 14 participants and to announce the winners of this year’s Patchwork-Challenge:

All participants have incorporated a small piece (of the same!) brown Shweshwe fabric into their Quilt. Shweshwe is very well suited for quilting and is available for  purchase in our shop. 


The 1st Place Prize (50€ Voucher from Trusted Roots Design Unlimited) goes to Almut Höhn (Mittelstetten)! Congratulations!

cache_24364464371st Place: Almut Höhn, Mittelstetten, "hand-appliqued and hand-quilted" 


The 2nd Place Prize (25€ Voucher from Trusted Roots Design Unlimited)goes to Namukolo Mukutu Mongwende (Johannesburg)and Kerstin Kohls-Behnken (Verden) who had exactly the same number of votes! Congratulations!


cache_24364661932nd Place: Kerstin Kohls-Behnken, Verden

cache_24364464462nd Place: Namukolo Mukutu Mongwende, Johannesburg


This participant from South Africa writes (published here for the first time):

My name is Namukolo Mukutu Mongwende, and I have been working with textiles for more than 20 years. I begin by printing my batik then I use the batik fabric to sew clothing, sell some of the fabric and use the batik in my patchwork, which is quite a process. Patchwork allows me to use all of the fabric pieces and offcuts. I stencil some prints which I use, also isishweshwe, some other local prints and other African prints. I live in Johannesburg with my husband and two children.


Each participant will receive a small present from Trusted Roots Design Unlimited as a thank you for participating in the PATCHWORK CHALLENGE 2013! Thank you very much!


Prizes and submitted pieces can be picked up on Friday 6/14 from 3:00-8:00pm at the studio.