‘Tie-and-Dye’: The skillful art of making traditional fabrics

Mr. Emmanuel Mensah and his assistant busily and skillfully remove yards of dyed cloth with the aid of sticks from metal barrels placed over burning firewood while they work assiduously towards the end of another resist-dyeing process.

Mr. Mensah, a resist-dyeing fabric maker, has been in the business of producing different types of traditional handmade fabrics since 1993, when he completed basic school and went under the tutelage of his late aunty.

Resist-dyeing is a fabric-making method in which textiles are dyed by intentionally resisting or preventing the dye from reaching all the cloth, creating unique patterns and textures.

His manufacturing hub is a few metres from the Tema Metropolitan Office of the Electoral Commission’s office, near Prisco Park at Tema Community Four.

Mr. Mensah told the Ghana News Agency in an interview in Tema that making the different types of resist-dyeing fabrics such as batik, tie-and-dye, cracks, and splashes, among others, needed creativity, skills, and consistency.

He said the basic materials needed for the production were calico, wax, salt, soda, soda ash, hydro sulfate and different dyes.

He stated that to process a bale of calico, which is made up of 600 yards, he would need three boxes of wax and two different types of dye (reactive and vat dye), explaining that while the reactive dye was used for the background colour, the vat dye was used for the designs.

He said that in addition to wax and dyes, he also needed five kilos of hydrosulfate, a kilo of soda ash, and four kilos of soda, in addition to a kilo of salt, stating that the salt is used to sustain the dyes and prevent them from fading when washed.

Taking the GNA through the process of making the cracks dye fabrics, he said the wax is first applied to the cloth, after which it is folded or crumpled in specific ways, adding that when the dye is applied to it, it seeps into it, making lines of the cracks in the cloth.

The dyed wax cloth is then put into hot water to remove the wax; it is then rinsed in water and dried, ready to be used for dressmaking.

He said the different types of resist-dye fabrics were still in vogue, contrary to what some people think, revealing that there was a huge market for tie-and-dye, batik, and cracks in Kumasi and Nigeria, which they capitalised on.

Mr. Mensah, however, said that sometimes it was difficult to meet the needs of the market as getting the calico for production has become difficult.

According to him, when Tex Style Ghana Limited (GTP) was producing more, it was easy for them to get the calico, which he referred to as UB4, which he said was the rejected raw material from the company.

He lamented that with the current economic condition and reduction in GTP’s production, it has become difficult to get regular material to process, stating however that they sometimes have to rely on foreign ones.

This, he said, was quite expensive as importers complained of high taxation and rates that they passed on to them, revealing that the price per bale ranges from GH¢6,800 to over GH¢7,500 depending on whether it was a second or first grade, respectively.

He appealed to the government to help sustain the local textile manufacturing companies in Ghana, as doing so would also help the traditional resist-dyeing fabric makers have enough materials at an affordable price to do their business and create jobs for the youth.

Source: GNA

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