We decided to add sleeping mats to our range. We had been asked by customers to supply Xhosa sleeping mats.The traditional method of making the mats of long well grown lengths of imizi and animal sinew had given way to imizi and string, baling twine, strips of plastic stretched into ‘string’.
The mats made in the old way proved too slow to make and therefor too expensive. Jim concocted ‘looms’.
Two pieces of timber top and bottom joined together with two thinner side pieces. Especially sourced twine was rolled onto large metal bobbins which were suspended from nails on the top bar. Long pieces of selected imizi were placed on top of each suspended string and the bobbins were each given one twist to keep the imizi in place. As the mat grew it was rolled up to keep it out of the way. Talk about a bunch of buggers to use plain English to begin with. The bobbins got wound up around each other, the string knotted, the whole bunch of bobbins had to be handled carefully.They had to be twisted in strict sequence and the workers developed a sort of almost hypnotic rhythm. Hombile my faithful old foreman became a whiz at the loom. We sold sleeping mats by the dozen. An interesting sale when we attended the Rand Easter Show in 1988 was when we sold a couple of dozen to a wedding party. That Rand Easter Show…. But that is a story for another day.
Soon we were making place mats as well as the sleeping mats. When we noticed that the place mats were selling like hot cakes and people started placing orders for a specific size we were told they were being used as sushi mats in Johannesburg. Sushi was the newest craze and Sushi outlets were being opened up all over South Africa.