Each mud cloth stocking measures 15 inches at its longest and 12 inches at its widest. And every piece of mud cloth is unique and may showcase small idiosyncrasies.
Each piece of mud cloth has a story to tell. The symbols and the way in which they are arranged reveal a variety of different secrets! Social status, a person's character or occupation, the history of a village can all be portrayed in a piece of mud cloth. Some pieces of mud cloth portray African proverbs or histories of African communities.
Traditionally, men in Africa are responsible for hand-weaving narrow strips of plain fabric that are then pieced together into a larger rectangular cloth. Women often dye the cloth.
The cloth is first dyed in a bath of mashed and boiled leaves and branches of trees. The now-yellow cloth is sun-dried and patterns are painted with a special mud which has been collected from ponds during the previous seasons and left to ferment.
As the cloth dries, the dark black mud turns gray and the cloth is washed to remove excess mud. This process is repeated numerous times and with each application the mud painted area of the cloth becomes darker. The yellow areas are painted with a bleach, which turns them brown.
The cloth is left to dry in the sun for a week. When the bleach solution is washed off with water, what remains is the characteristic white pattern on a dark background.