Fish and birds, oh my!

I got this cool piece of fabric at an estate sale. In person, it’s is cobalt blue on bright white.

see the transition from bird to fish?

even the birds change subtly along the pattern, losing their spots…

When I see it, I think “Indonesian wax print”; the selvage says “copyright Escher heirs 1980”.

Parenthetically, one of the pieces of fabric I got from Nairobi (via Craigslist) features the same birds and identifies as “Queen of Africa Super Imitation Wax”:

So anyway, I DO have a question.

The fabric is 47" wide by not quite long enough, with the pattern going across the grain (fish on one selvage, birds on the other).

I’d like to make a long sleeved tunic, but there’s not enough fabric for that. I have some matching solid blue, and this piece, from the same sale.

I don’t think that would quite work.

Any suggestions? pattern recommendations?


Ok, first - wow. I recognized the Escher style print immediately. That’s just so gorgeous. Wow.
And I would pair those fabrics but maybe that’s just me.


I love that Escher fabric! Actually, I love all of those fabrics…

I think I would pair the Escher fabric with solid blue. Or maybe even make a sleeveless vest-tunic. (And then wear a long-sleeved shirt underneath.) And would be sure at least one part of my tunic showed the whole transition from bird to fish.

Such an amazing, special fabric!


The Escher print is truly wonderful!

So, you want the body of the tunic to be this print to show off the transition from fish to bird…there would be leftovers to maybe trim whatever sleeves you decide to use. I think any solid for the sleeves would work.

Hard to tell the exact coloring and scale, but maybe something like this would work with both prints and solids?


I feel like @ceep needs to get in on this convo action…

and @Edel


Oooh, that is very nice, kind of what I imagined!

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This would be my vote as well… mixy matchy but with purpose.


I would be with @Magpie and put them together, they are fabulous prints and I think they would play nice together

Do the birds on the “matching bird” print face the opposite direction from the Escher one? That would bother me.

I would use some small scale geometric print in the same blue-black and white. This one is too blue, but that’s the feel I’m thinking.


I tend to mix geometrics with busy prints to “calm” them a bit as well…I have several batik blenders that do that! I love this one!

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the “matching bird” print is actually tan and black, which would bother me much more than direction.
I was just struck that somebody copied something from somebody. Did Escher adapt a classic African print, or did some African designer get inspired by Escher?

Incidentally, the second wax print, with the medieval animals, says “Guaranteed Dutch Wax” on the selvage.

I think I’ll bring a swatch along tomorrow; I’m going to a sew show that will have fabric for sale, so maybe I’ll get more textiles to add to the mix. A geometric might be just the thing…


I am intrigued to see what you will make. And, you know. if you have scraps laying around with no intention to use them… well… I’m here for ya, sister!


No way! I have to save them for MY estate sale!


We have to help little miss grabie hands!! Hide them from her!


I can solve that mystery for you!

The fabric looks like a design from the Vlisco company from Helmond, the Netherlands. They are known for their colourful graphic designs that are especially popular in Africa and their fabrics are known as Dutch wax.

The company has been around for like 150 years and the fabrics are I believe all still designed in the Netherlands. M.C. Escher, the designer of the other fabrics, is a Dutchman. I recognized that design immediately because my maths teacher in highschool had decorated their classroom with Escher prints. I’m sure the designer of the Vlisco fabric was familiar with the work of M.C. Escher.

I live fairly close to Vlisco’s HQ, I actually know someone who works there as a textile designer. My ancestors worked at all sorts of textile factories in this area back in the 19th century, it’s fairly likely that some worked at Vlisco back when the fabrics were still produced here.


cool, thanks for filling in that bit of fabric herstory!
I really like seeing how designs get adapted over time. I used to have a lot of costume books; many illustrations were based on old paintings, but others were interpretations of those same paintings. And then there were non-historic-costume illustrations, like for advertising; I would see the same costume!


Wow–thanks for this personalized history lesson! My husband is a big Escher fan and we have several prints and books showing his work.

I have several African prints and I have noticed stylized designs that I can now see how they evolved. I am sure that Escher was influenced by African design and combined them with his vision of the optical illusions he is famous for!

Very cool!


I like how people are consciously and subconsciously inspired by all the things they see in life. M.C. Escher was well-educated and well-travelled for this period of time so he would indeed have been aware of African art. He was clearly inspired by African art, Arab art, mathematics, so many different sources of inspiration, and still his art is so distinctive and unlike any other artists’ work.

There’s also unfortunately also an undercurrent of imperialism and colonialism in this story. The Dutch wax printing technique Vlisco is famous for, was heavily inspired by Batik, which is a technique that was basically stolen from Indonesia, then a Dutch colony, and the Republic of the Netherlands also held a trading post (basically a mini-colony) in Ghana for centuries, which is how Vlisco fabrics first reached West Africa.


There’s even more to that story, just google African fabric controversy. It’s quite the tale.


update: I’ve got a swatch of the fabric in my purse, and have searched for coordinating fabrics everywhere I go. I found vintage Japanese textiles, modern African fabrics, and even a promising pack of modern fat quarters at Walmart. Sadly, the colors were too far off to make me happy, so I’ve put this aside for now.
I have been working on drafting and refining the pattern; a long shoulder-princess tunic with a narrow shawl collar. It looks like a doctor’s coat in muslin, but next step is some black and white fabric that I’ll actually wear.