Kente, or strip-weaving, is the predominant form of weaving in Ghana. Long, narrow strips of cloth are woven, and then sewn together to make a wider fabric. Each strip is only about 4″ across, so it takes lots of strips to make a kente!
The magic of kente is in lining up the strips. To get a pattern to appear, each strip must be woven to match PRECISELY with its neighbor…as you will see in the kente below, a good weaver can weave so that the edges are invisible and it looks like it was woven as a single piece.
I studied for five days with a kente weaver and am awed by their ability to match the stripes. Amazing!
You can read more about my experiences in Ghana in the Ghana section of my travel blog.
A diamond kente, with parrots, scorpions, dogs, butterflies, and many other patterns.
Not all the kente are patchwork-like, however. Here is a kente in diamond patterns. It takes skill (and careful measurements) to get all of the patterns to line up accurately, so an overall diamond shape is revealed. Each diamond consists of four strips of kente, sewn together.
Here is a closeup of the diamond. Note how closely everything lines up!
Closeup of a butterfly. The strips are so well-sewn that you can't make out the divisions between kente!
Closeup of a scorpion
Here the (horizontal) stripes are made on plainweave using different colors of weft. This also allows the vertical bars of the warp striping to appear.
These vertical bars are formed using the pattern heddles. The left treadle is used with orange, the right treadle is used with blue. Then two shots of orange are thrown, then the pattern is reversed (left blue, right orange).
This is a funeral kente, which accounts for the somber colors.
Closeup of a kente by my teacher Kwame, showing a few of its complex patterns. This kente symbolizes "Unity".
An orange kente.
A relatively simple kente, but look at the workmanship: every one of those diagonal stripes lines up perfectly, despite being woven in individual strips!.