In July we had a woman visit who learned to weave at school in her native Sri Lanka. She knew all about the flying shuttle and told us about weaving with silk. Folks were in recently from Kerala state in India and Abyssinia (Ethiopia) who had also grown up with handweavers using a flying shuttle. Many have told me this summer about seeing weaving on their travels Laos, Bolivia, Bhutan, Guatemala and Swaziland. A few people even got to try it on simple looms. I feel so honored to have this contact with weaving and textiles from all over the world.
Had a very interesting visit from a man originally from Kurdistan, in the north of Iraq. He had his two daughters with him and told me stories about his grandmother’s looms that they had never heard. She apparently had several looms, a huge upright rug loom against a wall and a floor loom like mine. He remembered the rhythm and pretending to be asleep in her lap so he could playfully steal her shuttles. His great-grandmother wove as well and lived to 123!
Tulum is in the state of Quintana Roo on the Yucatan Penisula, the thumb of Mexico. We have been coming here since our family drove all over Mexico in 2001. Recently my husband, Ted and I drove through beautiful clean Mayan villages to Merida, on the tip of the ‘thumb.’ I have not seen looms in Tulum (yet) but on found this one in a shop Artisanas, Ixchala near the center of Merida. It was Sunday so the weaver was not present unfortunately, but he certainly had some beautiful work around him. Mostly it is men who weave on the frame looms and women who are the back strap weavers although I did see a young woman weaving in Oaxaca in 2002.
I’ve had many Korean customers tell me about weaving in Korea, but one of my favorite moments was the day a Korean man and woman come in the door and then came up to the loom with great excitement. The man declared that this was just like his mother’s weaving in Korea, he recognized the sound right away. His sister came next and with tears told me she has been writing her poetry for years to the remembered rhythm of her mother’s loom. This was the first time in many years she had heard the cadence aloud.
Fabrics in Korea are traditionally cotton, silk, ramie and hemp.
This summer I spoke to a woman from Afghanistan who told me in Persian about the loom she had worked on that was three times the width of my largest loom. This family cannot easily go back to their homeland and she was thrilled to see the looms. We were thrilled to meet them.
What a Afghan hand loom looks like
Today, the first snow. Yesterday our Liisa loom made in Finland was put to bed. (covered with a tarp) Now the flakes are falling and the coloured lights look far more appropriate. Fittingly two Finish fiber artists visited. I have always had a love affair with Scandinavia – colourful weaving, skiing, primary colours, the need for warmth, colourful wool and yet more weaving. Hearing Finish spoken I recognized the lilt and learned that to weave is: “kutoa.”
Warmth is of course a primary concern for northern climate and the first Finish weaving I saw was a very warm pile weave ryijy (pronounced rya) from a weaver named Toma. It looks like sheepskin and is used with pile side down for warmth on a bed, a wall or the floor. Much Finish weaving has traditionally been linen as flax grows readily in a norther climate. Both Finish women still own linen tea towels that get softer and more absorbent with age. One of them remembered a mother an or grandmother weaving in red linen and immediately the red Christmas elves sprang to mind. Here’s to a cozy winter!
Liisa LoomFirst Snow
This is my second post! I have finally stopped weaving long enough to write and the stories will mostly it will be about the amazing weaving stories our customers tell us about weaving around the world or in another century. This one however will be about our twisted wraps and a new way to wear them – also a gift from a customer, thank you! The lovely model is Dana Gallinger, one of our weavers.
Click to advance to the next picture.
There was a beautiful dark haired young woman from Romania, Alex who lived here on Kootenay Lake a few years ago. Involved in making beautiful medieval looking clothes, she, her sister and mother came in the shop many times to see the looms. Alex told me that when they left Romania people in the mountains still wove from necessity and that many of the old crafts were still alive. She was concerned that the new connections with Europe would change things and quickly so the last I saw of her, she was off to Romania to film people doing the traditional crafts.
When first open to the public, in 1995 or 96 at the old shop, Weavers’ Corner, one of my stand-out memories involved Swahili. I was weaving alone one afternoon when suddenly the shop was filled with the most beautiful black women speaking Swahili and snapping photographs. I don’t speak Swahili but a childhood friend whose parents were medical missionaries in Kenya had taught me to count to ten and say hello so I recognized it and said “Jambo!” It turned out that they were the sisters of a nurse who is a friend of one of my walking buddies, our local health nurse. They laughed and talked in Swahili to each other and English to me and were filled with enthusiasm and curiosity about the looms. They were trying to describe the looms in Kenya and told me that people wove with wool which surprised me. I imagined only cotton for such a hot country. That is true as well but they told me it could also be very cold, especially on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
A pair of elderly nuns were also visitors from Kenya. They described setting up a village cooperative raising angora goats. The mohair was spun by hand and woven on simple looms into blankets and wall hangings. There was also a sewing component that created school uniforms. They were fascinated with the treadle looms and took many pictures to try and help them take the next step in technology!