Our journey exploring exquisite African hand-woven textiles which are used in creating luxurious product offerings at Ayo Uko begins with Aso Oke, from the Yoruba tribe in West Africa. Traditionally, Aso Oke is known as one of three types Etu, Alari and Sanyan which vary based on the dyes and fibers used to create them and on the patterns formed by the artisans in the process of weaving these exquisite cloths (Makinde D., et al., September 2009).
The looms used in creating Aso Oke textile are mainly of two types. The vertical single heddle loom, or broad loom, used by female artisans and the horizontal double heddle loom used by men. The vertical loom is a fixed vertical frame to which the warp is tensely pulled across to create a cloth of predetermined length with a width ranging from 30 cm to 90 cm (Makinde D., et al., September 2009). This allows two or three pieces to be woven which are then stitched together to create the wide cloth or “Iro” which is typically tied around the waist by women. The horizontal loom is structured with unwoven warp yarns stretched out for several meters attached in the front of the weaver who sits within a shed to maintain tension on the yarn (Makinde D., et al., September 2009). This configuration produces strips of woven fabrics about 14-15cm wide which when completed can be cut and stitched together to create wider cloths of varying dimensions. This horizontal loom utilizes several accessories to create a wide range of customizable designs on each strip of cloth.
In Ilorin, a historic city and Aso Oke hub in Western Nigeria, the vertical loom is known by its artisans as Oguntoro and is created from local tree wood such as Anyi. The horizontal frame is known as the Asha and Omun (verbal communication from artisan weavers in Ilorin) and has various accessories such as the propeller, long-wheel and rollers to achieve the unique patterns and designs of the beautiful cloth.