How to Make Aso Oke

How to Make Aso Oke


Aso oke fabric, (Yoruba: aṣọ òkè, pronounced ah-SHAW-okay) is a hand-woven cloth created by the Yoruba people of west Africa. Usually woven by men and women, the fabric is used to make men’s gowns, called agbada and hats, called fila, as well as women’s wrappers, called iro and head tie, called gele.

Aso oke is from the Yoruba culture in Kwara, Kogi, Ondo, Oyo, Ogun, Ekiti, Lagos and Osun States in western Nigeria and Ajase in southeastern Benin Republic.

The way of making the cloth has remained the same for centuries, however new techniques and production methods have been looked into to eliminate the weight and thickness of the aso oke cloth, and to make it more accessible for casual wear.


Other ways that designers have made this old traditional cloth become more modern is to “structurally manipulate and combine animal and floral motifs into definite shapes of grids and geometry, suitable for computer design applications’’. There are basically three types of Aso oke fabrics which have been listed below:

  • Sanyan type: woven from anaphe wild silk and cotton yarns
  • Alaari type: woven with either synthetically or locally grown cotton and shining threads, sometimes with perforated patterns
  • Etu type: bears dark indigo colors with tiny white stripes noted for their simplicity.


The primary raw materials for Aso –Oke making are majorly cotton and dye. The dyes, silk and fibers used in making different types of Aso-Oke are either locally sourced or brought from Hausa, at times imported from Tunisia, Italy and France.


The cotton is used in making the threads used in weaving Aso-Oke and it is mostly planted during the rainy season between the months of June and July. However the cotton would be ready for harvesting between November and February of the following year. Most cases after harvesting the cotton are kept in the bar for spinning.


This is the process of separating the cotton seed from the wool. And in doing this a bow-like instrument called “Orun ” in Yoruba language (Spindler). The weaver spreads the wool and rolls it on the loom (the loom is a handmade wood used in weaving; this loom is usually made by local carpenters). The Spindler would be turned, and while it is being turned, it will start rotating thereby thinning the cotton. This is done on a continuous basis till all the wool has been spinned.


Cotton behaves like magnets thus easily attracting dirt; therefore the dirt has to be separated from the wool in order to make the wool fit for use. This process is known as sorting and there are machines for these purposes but in the absence of non, it can be sorted out manually. This is very tedious and time consuming.


This is the process where designs and patterns are made on the Aso-Oke while the cloth is being woven. The material used in cloth patterning includes the following:

  • Akata (propeller)
  • Iye (long wheel)
  • Akawo (short wheel)
  • Gowu and kikgun (rollers)
  • Aasa (strikers)
  • Omu (extender) this is used in holding the reels
  • Sanrin (metallic peg)

During patterning, the cotton reels are hung upon the hangers on the sets of the metallic pegs on the ground. The reason for this is to make the cotton into bundles.


After the above has been put in place, the actual weaving starts. The rolled cotton will be neatly inserted into the striker through the extenders. The weaver will tie Iro (filler) to his seat. There are two or more holes on the staff in which a small peg is tagged. On the upper hand of the Omu (Extenders), there is Okeke (Wheel or Axle) for pulling the Omu up and down.

There are two step pedals under the extenders (Omu) which the weaver presses down interchangeably during weaving. The pedal when pressed enables the cotton to open and the Realer put through to one side while the Striker knocks the reel to and fro to another side. This Striker allows the reel to be finely set interchangeably.

The weaver handles the Oko (Motor) and throws it inside the open cotton to be received by his other hand. The movement of the Motor continues and faster as if the weaver is not touching it at all. The reel inside the motor will start giving a peculiar sound.

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