Company Profile: Pink House by Rebecca Cole

Pink House by Rebecca Cole collection is championing the traditions of Aso-oke hand weaving in the Yoruba region of Nigeria to the Interior Design Industry. The influx of cheap, imported textiles and mass-produced European style clothing has drastically diminished the artisan weaving industry in Nigeria leaving fewer weaving communities able to make a living from their craft.

By taking an innovative approach to using the beautiful striped and patterned woven strips, as a form of passementerie for interior design, textile designer Rebecca Cole has identified a way to support the traditions of weaving that she first encountered in the 1990’s.

Whilst on an introductory visit to her husband’s family in Nigeria “I fell in love with not only the magic of Nigeria but also the sense of heritage and family contained in the textiles that had been created and safeguarded by my mother-in-law from every family event. There is family history attached to each piece of As0-oke she has kept.”

The traditions of Yoruba weaving date back to the 10th and 12th Century in Nigeria. The Aso-oke cloth is traditionally woven by men in the Southwestern region of Nigeria on horizontal looms. As early as the 17th Century, Aso-oke cloth was recorded as a valuable trading commodity with the British.The history of interregional Aso-oke trade in Nigeria stretches back to the earliest times within and beyond the boundaries of Yoruba speaking groups right up into the North of the country.

The Yoruba textile industry, comprises spinners, dyers, tailors, embroiderers and cloth beaters with the weavers at the centre. Production also involves farmers and hunters to supply cotton and the Wild Silk Moth (anaphe) cocoon for the making of native silk yarn.

Today, industrially produced yarns are generally used by the Aso-oke weavers. Before use the threads will be ‘washed’ in a starch solution after which they will be spread in the sun to dry. The threads are then stiff enough to resist the tension of weaving. The next stage is the rewinding of the threads onto spools to make for easy shedding and warping.

The horizontal loom comprises of treadle, shuttle, pulley, harness, beam, sleight and a beater. The loom uses the rafters of a shelter to suspend the necessary cords. Running from the suspension are two treadles each with a loop which fits around the weaver’s big toes allowing the pressing of the treadles.

At the weaving end the warp is tied to the beam while at the other end it is spread out at a desired distance to the weaver and held taut by a heavy object, usually a stone resting on a wooden object that drags the warp towards the weaver during the weaving process.

The weaver then sits on the ledge with his legs stretched under the cloth beam and on top of the treadles. He can then pass the shuttle carrying the weft. Weaving progresses as the boat shuttle passes through the warp with the alternate depressions of the foot pedals (treadles) opening the sheds. In order to give patterns to the cloth. a smooth stick called apasa is used. The resulting weave is approximately 14-18cm wide and it can take up to five days for a weaver to produce enough cloth to make a traditional man’s outfit (appx 30 m or 5sq m).

Working closely with weavers and embroiderers in Nigeria, Rebecca creates colour stories and embroidery designs derived from historical sources such as 17th century European tapestries and antique Yoruba sculpture, making a true ‘marriage’ of the cultures in her family.

The Pink House by Rebecca Cole collection has introduced these artisan techniques to the interior design market in a new guise as trims for upholstery and furnishings. Rebecca combines her love of pattern and texture to create a collection with three strands: Woven Aso-oke in a collection of over 100 designs, some of these are vintage pieces and some woven from native silk; Embroidered Aso-oke, echoing the Yoruba tradition for traditional ceremonial clothing embellished with intricate freehand machine embroidery and hand block-printed border designs applied to simple Aso-oke strips combining Rebecca’s experience as a textile print designer and the traditions of cross-cultural print and weave.

To contact  – click on name: Rebecca Cole 
Instagram: @pinkhousebyrebeccacole


Images & Text: with thanks to Pink House by Rebecca Cole

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