Bring your love of adventure to your bedroom with mudcloth, a simple handmade fabric that speaks volumes.

Mudcloth bedroom

Travel the world. Or visit thousands of Pinterest boards. Either way, you’ll absorb the magic of other cultures. Now get ready to dig into the mystique of mudcloth, a centuries-old technique originating in Mali, West Africa. Mudcloth is created by stitching together narrow strips of handwoven cotton, then using natural dyes (including fermented river mud) to paint the assembled cloth with symbolic patterns. Integrate motifs inspired by this tribal treasure into your home—starting with the master bedroom.

Mudcloth bedroom overall

Although traditional mudcloth comes in neutral shades, stylized versions can break the rules. An African-inspired comforter jump-starts a color palette of gold, white and teal.

Mudcloth headboard

The upholstered headboard wears pale gray and white—mudcloth at its heart, but subdued enough to let the bedding shine. Here’s how to make your own.

Mudcloth headboard materials

What You’ll Need

  • Mudcloth-style fabric (enough to wrap around the backing)
  • Quilt batting on a roll (enough to wrap around the backing)
  • Tape measure
  • Scissors
  • Plywood or MDF backing cut to desired size (our queen-size head- board measures about 5 x 4 feet)
  • Staple gun and staples
  • Hammer
  • Wall cleat (we used Rockler 18-inch Heavy-Duty Mirror and Picture Hanger)

Upholstering headboard

Step 1 Lay uncut fabric facedown on a large, clean work surface. Add a single layer of batting. Top with the backing.

Step 2 Cut fabric and batting so there’s an extra 3 inches on each vertical and horizontal side of the backing.

Step 3 Starting in the middle of one side, wrap the fabric and batting around to the back of the MDF. Secure with staples, leaving corners open. Repeat steps on the opposite side, pulling the fabric and batting taut as you go. Repeat steps on remaining two sides.

Step 4 For neat corners, clip out a square notch of the extra batting and fabric, then tuck them in so they lie flat and staple in place.

Step 5 Attach the headboard to a wall stud using Rockler wall cleats.

Mudcloth pillow

White graphics unite a blue pillow with a purchased comforter. Create a pillow cover with authentic mudcloth or a printed pattern fabric (ours is from Spoonflower)

What You’ll Need

  • Fabric
  • Scissors
  • Thread
  • Pins
  • Sewing machine
  • 6/32-inch cotton cording, 3 yards
  • Pillow insert

Step 1 Cut one fabric piece 18½ inches square. Cut a second piece 18½ x 24½ inches. Fold this second piece in half and cut on the fold to get two identical pieces that are 18½ x 12¼ inches.

Step 2 Measure how much cording is needed: Quadruple the width of the pillow and add 2 inches. To cover the cording, cut bias strips: Fold fabric diagonally, matching the side edge with the bottom edge and press. This will create a 45-degree line with which to align strips. Cut as many 1½-inch-wide strips as the project requires, parallel with the 45-degree crease. Connect bias strips to form one big, long strip: Pin two strips right sides together at a 90-degree angle. Sew a straight line from the top left corner where the two strips overlap, to the bottom right corner. Trim the seam allowance. Repeat to sew all the strips together to form one long strip of bias tape. Starting at one end of the bias strip, lay cotton cording on the wrong side of the fabric and fold in half over the top. Slide a pin through the folded strip and through the cotton cording, securing both. Work along the bias tape, folding and pinning the cording inside every 8 inches. Using a zipper foot on the sewing machine, sew the fabric around the cording.

Pillow detail

Step 3 Pin cording onto the right/patterned side of the large piece of fabric with cording edges lining up with the edges of the pillow fabric. Tip: To get a closer fit on the edges, use some small scissors and make small cuts on the cording fabric at the edges: This will let the cording bend around the corners. Pin it all in place. To give the cording a continuous look, open a seam on one end of the cording and cut 2 inches off the cording inside. Then, with the other end of the cording, trim 2 inches off of the cording fabric and insert the trimmed cording edge into the open seam so it matches up with the cut edge of the cording inside. Fold the edges of the cording cover, fold it under and pin in place. Sew the cording onto the front of the pillow cover, using the zipper foot to get as close to the cording as possible.

Step 4 Hem one 18½-inch edge of the two remaining pieces of fabric for the back of the pillow envelope. Then, with all right sides facing inward, pin those panels onto your pillow front so that they overlap. Sew the pillow front to the back pieces tightly against the outside edge of the cording. Turn the pillow cover inside out and insert the pillow form.

Pendant lampshade with mudcloth motifs

Light up your life. Add African flair midair by upgrading a pendant with mudcloth designs.

Lampshade materials

Start with a drum shade covered in plain fabric. Use a fabric marker to draw vertical rows of geometric shapes, crosses and dots on the shade. Nervous about designing freehand? Lightly pencil in the shapes first; you can always erase them later.

Mudcloth pouf

A handmade pouf serves as a night table. It harmonizes with the nearby comforter thanks to fabric ordered from All the patterns play nicely together, and the white-on-yellow print suits the color palette. Choose fabric from one of the site’s independent designers, or design your own.

What You’ll Need

  • 2 yards durable fabric
  • Pins
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
  • Iron
  • Seam ripper
  • 6 yards cording
  • Zipper at least 15 inches long
  • 1 bag of 100L polystyrene balls

Step 1 Cut six 19-inch squares of fabric. Following the steps in the Pillow with
Envelope Closure instructions, make about 6 yards of piping.

Step 2 Take two fabric squares and lay them on top of each other, right sides facing. Using the sewing machine’s baste stitch, sew a seam along one side. Press the basted seam open with an iron. With the right sides facing down, place the zipper facedown so that it lies directly on the seam. The zipper pull should only be about a half-inch down from the top of the seam edge. Pin zipper into place. Use the zipper foot to carefully sew the zipper into place. When the zipper is attached, use a seam ripper to open the baste seam.

Step 3 Take two more fabric pieces and, placing right sides together, sew the sides together and then to the two zipper side pieces, resulting in a “tube” shape (four sides with no top or bottom). Lay the tube down, right side up; then lay piping on top of the edge with the raw edges together and aligned; then stack another square, wrong side up, on top of the piping. Align raw edges for all three components (tube, piping and square) and ensure the corners of the square line up with the corner seams of the tube. Leave about 4 inches of piping and pin the piping into place, all the way around. Sew the three pieces together (tube, piping and square) all the way around the edges, minus about 4 inches from the beginning and 4 inches from the end of the piping. Following the steps in the pillow instructions above, finish the piping ends.

Step 4 Repeat piping attachment steps for the other end of the tube, using the rest of the piping and the last square piece. Be sure to keep the right sides of the tube and square piece facing each other, and the piping sandwiched in between. Also, take care to unzip the zipper at least a little bit about halfway through sewing this side, so the zipper pull is accessible. When finished, open the zipper all the way and turn the fabric right-side out.

Step 5 Open the bag of polystyrene balls carefully or this can get messy—it helps to have two pairs of hands for this step. Insert the open end of the bag into the zippered opening of your pouf and pour the balls in slowly. Carefully shake the pouf every so often to settle the balls; you will probably use the entire bag. Over time you can add more polystyrene to keep your pouf’s shape.

Don’t miss our next posts when mudcloth motifs travel to other rooms of the home.

© Caruth Studio

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