Preparing the optional designs that I can develop with the women in the villages, I was reading again in the wonderful book by beverly Gordon that I mentioned before: Textiles - the whole story .
Many of the elements that she describes play a role in the quest for textiles: human survival, social bonding and spiritual meaning. Leaving through magazines is of hardly any use, for decoration is simply not an issue in their lives.
Textiles in these villages in Malawi are used to cover, protect, carry, for rituals and- in the end- for beauty. It's stunning to see how a poor African woman can be most elegant in a wretched skirt. She has her pride; it will hardly ever be torn. At the end of the season before harvest, all left-overs have gone, and only then people might walk around in torn clothes, or the same clothes each day.
So each item that we will develop to design will need to comply with at least these conditions: usefulness, strength, protection, recognizability (both culturally and socially).
That's a great challenge. But there are many options; as they've shown themselves already.
So far most of what they've done was for children, and small caps for themselves. This time we might go further- do things for the household, the larger family or society.
Here are some examples so far: