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Blog / How is it made?

Soapstone Carvings by the Kisii People of Kenya

African carvings have become very popular décor items in recent years. With people taking more of an interest in global art forms, and with the rise in popularity of abstract sculptures, this type of art is popping up in homes, offices and galleries across North America.

 A particular type of African carving that is particularly alluring are handmade soapstone carvings from Kenya. While soapstone has been used for years as a carving material, it is the Kisii stone that is most desirable.

Origins of Soapstone Carvings by the Kisii


The stone is named after the Kisii people of the Tabaka Hills in western Kenya—the only place it is found in the region. The soapstone is a metamorphic rock that consists of the mineral talc. Also commonly referred to as steatite, it is known for being soft and easy to work with. While the stone was primarily used for domestic purposes such as basketry and pottery, it is now used to create handmade carvings for export. The Kisii people originally used soapstone to carve pots to carry fat, which was later massaged into the skin for protection against the sun and other elements. For many families, these soapstone carvings are their primary source of income as they sell their work in malls, galleries, markets and shops across Kenya.

Kisii Stone Stone - has become preferred by local artisans because of its softness and ease of carving. It occurs in a number of beautiful natural colours ranging from a light cream to black as well as yellows, red, lavender and grey. The color is dependent on the minerals present in the soapstone. The soapstone is used to create both functional items and works of art.

It’s used to carve:

  • Vases
  • Trays and plates
  • Bowls and pots
  • Decorative sculptures

While carvings traditionally feature animal figures such as elephants, rhinos and other African wildlife, carvers today also create contemporary abstract figures, bookends, candle holders, and many other figurines

Natural 10-inch Tall Soapstone Family Sculpture - 2 Parents 4 Children

The Soapstone Carving Process

The carving process is quite involved, and it often includes multiple people. Here are the steps involved in crafting soapstone carvings:
  1. Mining: Local miners dig a large pit by hand, about 50-75 feet in diameter, using picks and shovels. Heavy machinery is not used.
  1. Selection: Not all stone that is mined is used for the carvings. The miners sort the stone and select high quality materials for the carvings. Selected materials are then immersed in water to make it easier to carve.
  1. Carving: Carving is done by hand using a variety of tools such as knives, machetes, chisels, and files. Carvings are most frequently done by experienced carvers, with younger carvers often observing and practising their skills to refine their expertise.
  1. Sanding: The carved soapstone is washed and smoothed using sandpaper. This is most commonly done by women. Multiple grades of sandpaper are used to achieve the proper finish.
  1. Decoration: Depending on the type of piece being crafted, the piece is either left in its natural state, or it is decorated by adding color and design elements.
  1. Polishing: The final step is treating and polishing using oils, creating a professional finish and a shine that brings out other subtle features of the carvings.

Entire families are commonly involved in the soapstone carving process. Men perform the carving and shape the piece. Men or women perform the sanding tasks, and then women do the washing, drying, waxing, and polishing to give the soapstone carving its glossy finish. 

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Benefits of Bamboo Fabrics: How Bamboo Becomes a Scarf, Shawl or Cowl

While many people commonly associate bamboo with home décor items, mats, furniture and different types of art, there is a growing trend in the fashion industry as more and more clothing designers are using bamboo fabric rather than cotton. Our bamboo scarves and cowls are a great example!

Bamboo Cowl

While bamboo clothing items such as scarves, shirts and sweaters have been overlooked for years, it is starting to gain in popularity with designers and consumers who are looking for something unique. It is even used for rugs and towels because the fabric is known to dry very quickly.

Bamboo Cowl
We offer a variety of hand-knit bamboo scarves, shawls and cowls. The organic bamboo textiles are created by the talented artisans of the small country of Swaziland at the hilltop farm and weaving studio founded by Rosa Roques. Special color recipes are used in the dying of the fibers making the woven textiles truly unique. They are perfect for year round wear and are both functional and fashionable. They are available in 7 beautiful colors, allowing you to match them with any outfit.

The Process of Turning Bamboo into Textiles

Here are the steps to organically turn bamboo into a textile:
  • Bamboo is harvested. Only the leaves and soft pith inside the bamboo stalks are used.
  • Bamboo is crushed using heavy rocks or plywood boards.
  • The crushed bamboo is placed into a container with water and natural enzymes.
  • Let the bamboo sit until it takes on a pulp like state.
  • Drain the bamboo and allow it to dry.
  • Cut the bamboo fibres into smaller pieces.
  • Place pieces into a pressurized vat with water and amine oxide (a nontoxic solvent).
  • Heat mixture until bamboo fibres dissolve.
  • Pour the liquid through a filter. This will create long textile fibres.
  • Place the fibres in a mixture of water and amine oxide. Wait for the fibres to become soft and flexible.
  • Rinse fibres.
  • Hand dry and comb out the fibres, separating them in the process.
  • Spin fibres into thread by hand. You can also use a spinning wheel.
  • Knit (or weave) the thread to create the fabric.

There you have it! The organic and environmentally-friendly process to turn bamboo into a fabric that can be used to create almost any type of clothing. For designers, bamboo fabric is easy to use, and very versatile, allowing them to create almost any type of garment. It is naturally soft, and it takes dye colors well. In fact, it is actually softer than cotton and is commonly compared to cashmere from a softness perspective.

Benefits of Bamboo Fabrics

There are four main benefits of using bamboo as a textile:
  1. It's antibacterial: Bamboo fabric is naturally antibacterial, and these properties do not diminish when washed.
  1. It's eco-friendly: Bamboo fabric is environmentally friendly. From the manufacturing process being easier on the environment, to bamboo requiring less water and energy to harvest, its quick regrowth, and because it does not require pesticides, it has much less of an impact than other materials used for textiles.
  1. It absorbs water well: Bamboo fabric naturally absorbs water. It can help to repel water, also, making it ideal for outdoor clothing, and it will help you stay cool and dry during the summer when it’s hot.
  1. It’s hypoallergenic: The fabric can be worn against the skin without the negative reactions that people experience when they wear other fabrics. Bamboo fibre is naturally smooth, making it less likely to irritate people who have reactions to other textiles..
Bamboo is also becoming popular in the clothing industry because of its positive environmental impact. It’s the fastest growing woody plant on earth, it can grow in diverse climates, helping to restore regions that have suffered from degradation, and it produces a great deal of oxygen, helping to control emissions and reduce carbon dioxide.
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Do You Know Where the Angora in Your Scarf or Shawl Comes From?

With a crisp chill in the air and snow under our feet, many of us are searching our wardrobes for something to wear that will increase warmth without making us look like the Michelin Man!

Do you ever wonder where the Angora fabric in your winter sweater and scarves comes from? You may be surprised! The mohair in our beautiful scarves, shawls, pashminas or cowls comes from Angora goats raised on the Rosecraft farm/textile atelier in the small country of Swaziland in Africa.

Our entire collection of scarves and shawls is created by the talented artisans of Rosecraft, a unique textile atelier. Specifically, the mohair comes from Angora goats raised on their farm, and a special color recipe is used in the dying of the fibers, creating a truly unique look you can’t get anywhere else.

Mohair – A Highly Desirable Luxury Fiber

Mohair is one of the most desirable fabrics. It is known for its unique combination of strength and softness, something that is only produced by Angora goats. According to the Colored Angora Goat Breeders Association, “A good mohair fleece will be characterized by locks or bunches of mohair fibers held together by the curl of the fleece, with a light sheen of oil and a good long staple. Angora goats produce as much as an inch of fiber a month. Since Angora goats are usually shorn twice a year, fleeces have a four to six inch staple.”

About Tsandza

“Our designs have an African soul but are inspired by international trends: the results are distinctive creations for individuals who appreciate the uniqueness of handmade pieces.”

Founded more than 35 years ago, Tsandza began as a hobby and has evolved into one of the most unique businesses in Africa. In a country where the overwhelming majority of the population lives in poverty, Rosa Roques’ vision has enabled talented local artisans to provide for their families. Tsandza started as a small workshop and today has become a successful business that employs more than 40 local women who produce products locally and internationally. Tsandza’s mission is “to create employment opportunities and a sustainable income for the women who work for us, and to be internationally recognized for our luxurious, handmade products.”

And the most unique thing about Tsandza - the Angora in their textiles comes from their own goats they raise on their farm.

Making everything by hand, the artisans weave, crochet and knit a variety of house and home wares, clothing and fashion accessories. Everything is made from pure natural fibers of mohair, as well as organically grown cotton, bamboo, wool and silk.


Tsandza is a member of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) and the Swaziland Fair Trade Organization (SWIFT), and uses its success to support a number of local community projects helping to provide clean drinking water and collaboration with local schools. Learn more about Tsandza and how Zawadee helps to micro-fund their employment and training initiatives. You might also like to read about how our bamboo fashion textiles are created. Please read our blog. 

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