In the beginning, we didn’t understand much about the looms we encountered during our purchasing trips. At the time, we were mainly concerned with the beautiful fabrics that rolled out. Still, we wanted to better understand how our handwoven scarves are made. How our scarves and shawls were made on these wooden frames, with a tangle of threads, between which coils slid back and forth.
Many visits to our weavers later, we understand better how it works. It has only increased our appreciation for this special piece of craftsmanship. We are happy to tell you what we know.
Weaving by hand, an ancient craft
Fortunately, the steam engine and factory looms that have been running at full speed since 1800 have not been able to completely drive out the classic craft. Despite cutthroat competition from fast fashion, the craft is still practiced.
According to BBC News, weaving started 27,000 years ago. The looms on which our scarves are made may not be that old, but they often last for generations. It is on these wooden constructions that mothers and grandmothers teach their daughters to weave.
Especially in poorer areas you often see weavers at work. For them it is a way to contribute to the meager family income.
Also read: Traditional handicrafts, fashion trend in 2021
But weaving by hand is also popular in Europe. Economic motives and revenue models then play a lesser role, it is about the pleasure of designing and weaving fabrics. We often see the most beautiful handicrafts on social media. It is certainly worthwhile to look around on one of the many Facebook groups.
The technique of weaving
Weaving is similar to braiding. You make fabrics by connecting horizontal and vertical threads.
It’s all about the warp and the weft. The warp threads are the basic threads that start it all. These threads are stretched parallel to each other on a loom.
Then they are lifted alternately, after which a transverse thread, the weft, is passed through it. It remains to press the wires to connect the whole (the binding). By lifting some warp threads and some not, a (weaving) pattern is created.
One of the simplest weaving devices is the weaving frame. The weaving frame is a portable construction in which the warp is tensioned. The weft is inserted by hand and pressed with a board. Sometimes it is a wooden window that connects both sides.
And sometimes it’s a fixed point (like a wall or tree) on one side and the weaver’s body on the other. The weaver then pulls the threads taut with his body.
We wrote about this in ‘a mobile weaving frame made of bamboo and yarn’.
The loom is less mobile. It is a cumbersome and heavy construction that you cannot easily move. Usually the loom has its permanent place under the house.
A loom consists of wooden beams between which the warp is stretched. Just in front of the seating area hangs a comb with, behind it, two or more thin cross slats. These cross bars are connected to pedals.
When you press the pedals, the warp threads go up (or down) one by one. The wires move in groups. This creates a corridor or shaft through which the weaver throws the shuttle.
The shuttle is a wooden block that resembles a boat. Due to its shape, it glides smoothly through the cross wires. In the boat, the weft thread is wrapped around a small spool. By throwing back and forth, the weft thread unwinds.
The comb is used to press the weft threads and thus bind the whole.
Weaving, a social event
In the shade under the house it is cooler and sometimes there is a breeze. That is often the reason why the loom is here. Rarely is the lady of the house working alone. Neighbors walk by and chat. There is always someone who keeps the weaver company.
In some villages looms stand together. It’s always a lot of fun there. There is a lot of laughing, eating and talking.
The woven fabrics are compared with each other and techniques are exchanged. It only benefits the end result.
We are proud
And we can sell that result. We are proud of that. Especially now that we know how our hand-woven scarves are made.
To dye the yarn, our weavers use natural dyes as much as possible.
It is a labor-intensive process that does not harm the environment. The painting techniques are passed on from generation to generation.
We wrote about this in ‘how is indigo dye made’ and ‘scarves with dyes from nature’.
Museums in the Netherlands
If you want to know more about weaving, you can visit the weaving museum in Geldrop, North Brabant. This museum shows all possible variations of looms and machines and is located in a former textile factory.
The Bussemakerhuis in Borne, a national monument in Overijssel, regularly organizes weaving courses.
The TextielMuseum, located in Tilburg, has been housed since 1985 in the former textile factory of the firm C. Mommers & Co., once one of the largest employers in Tilburg.