Tapestry Crochet in Cameroon

Men’s tapestry crocheted and looped hats are very popular in the western highlands of Cameroon in Central West Africa. Sometimes the styles are meaningful (denoting status, a specific event, or one’s home town), other times the hats are just fashion statements.

Men in Bafut, Cameroon
Both tapestry crocheted (left) and looped hats (right) can be seen in Bafut. Tapestry crocheted hats of a different style are for sale on the wall behind them. (2000)

Detail of looped hat from Cameroon
Detail of a looped hat from Cameroon.

How are looping and crochet related? They are similar, but with looping the entire strand is pulled through each loop; only a small loop is pulled through another loop with crochet. Looping is an ancient technique, but no one knows when or where tapestry crochet developed. I suspect loopers embraced it because tapestry crochet is quicker.

Tapestry crochet is one of many crafts done in Foumban, home of the Bamum (Bamun, Bamoun) people. The early 20th century Sultan Njoya encouraged metal casters, leatherworkers, potters, embroiderers, woodcarvers, beadworkers, and other craftspeople to move there and a hundred years later, it is still the center of craft production in Cameroon.

Foumban Craftsmen
A Bamum leather worker and a sculptor wear tapestry crocheted hats with diamond motifs, but each is quite distinctive. (2000)

Crocheters from Foumban, Cameroon
Bamum crocheters often carry recycled synthetic sack fibers to stiffen the hats they tapestry crochet with cotton and acrylic yarns. The hats on the right commemorate the local biennial Nguon Festival. (2000)

Detail of a Hat from Foumban, Cameroon
Detail of the synthetic fiber carried in Foumban. Notice that the top loop of each stitch is laying over the next one. This happens when the yarn color is changed after completing the stitch (instead of when 2 loops are still on the hook).

Hats from Foumban, CameroonHats from Foumban, Cameroon
These tapestry crocheted hats are from Foumban. The knob on the top is a decorative element that is specific to that town. (2000)

Although I observed more women tapestry crocheting than men when I visited in 2001, I did find one male crocheter in Dschang.

Man crocheting in Dschang
This Bamileke man from Dschang is crocheting a hat like the one that he made below. (2000)

Hat from Dschang, Cameroon
Aren’t the crocheted ruffles fabulous? (2000)

Hats from Dschang, Cameroon
These tapestry crocheted hats are also from Dschang and are more typical of the hats worn there. (2000)

I suggested in an earlier blog that Korsnäs tapestry crochet might have evolved from nalbinding, an ancient looping technique. I believe the same thing happened in Cameroon. My next blog will show a similar development in Guatemala.

17 Responses to “Tapestry Crochet in Cameroon”

  1. Amanda says:

    Wow. That’s all I can say.

  2. blueadt says:

    That’s for sharing. It was really interesting & I’m looking forward to your next post.

  3. I found this post to be very interesting. A while ago I tried to crochet a purse using the tapestry technique, but I got discouraged when it didn’t want to turn out right. Reading your blog makes me want to try it again…


    hi there,i was so happy seeing your works on a web.that is very good of you.i will give you so mush encouragement by praying to GOD to give you more power and wisdom to put you through and encourage your culture to the world…

  5. je suis de foumban je suis à paris je vur la pohto de ma mere à sur vortr site

  6. Val Eaves says:

    What an inspiration. We have tried tapestry crochet, a bit harder than one thought. Where are patterns for these wonderful hats. Val

  7. These patterns are not published, but a few of my own free hat patterns are linked from my web page at http://www.tapestrycrochet.com/#patterns

  8. Ruebena P Paraha says:

    Hi fellow admirers of the beautiful tapestry crochet.
    I am a designer I live in NZ. I would like to make contact with a manufacturer of tapestry crochet in the Cameroon. I am trying to get my designs made by those who are best at it.
    The examples of tapestry crochet on the page are just stunning.

    Ruebena P Paraha
    55 Palmerston Rd
    Havelock North
    Hawke’s Bay
    NZ 4130

  9. marisadiniz says:

    would like to know more about their work and products, thnaks

  10. oleafrica says:

    The art of designing hats is different across the country. For example, the hats in the coastal area o Kenya and Tanzania are quite different from the Cameroonians’ ones. Africa has rich culture!

  11. Dino says:

    Love these hats, wonderful, incredible! Can I get one in India?

  12. Unfortunately, I doubt that these hats would be available in India.

  13. yahya abdussabur says:

    greetings, i m interested in finding a sellers for the kufis..is it possible to purchase them? plese respond..

  14. Unfortunately, I do not know anyone who exports the hats from Cameroon.

  15. […] by reinterpreting motifs and designs. So when Interweave asked me to write about and design a Bamum hat, I looked at the examples in my collection, chose a style, and took it from […]

  16. Molly Hope says:

    Thanks for posting this technique and the fabulous examples!

  17. Anna Heiseke says:

    These hats are really beautiful!

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