Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Traditional Ethiopian Weaving

The hand made process takes the raw cotton from the market to the "Shemane's" (traditional Ethiopian weavers) place of work. There the cotton is separated from the seed and piled one side.

Once the pile of cotton is seed and dirt free, its stretched into a string by a slow process. This process is a fully manual and tedious one if you look at the color picture above the two women sitting, the one of the right is using her hands draw the cotton into strings. The woman sitting to the left is using a manually operated machine to 'stain' or 'color' some of the strings so they can be used for the colorful patterns that are sawn into the shawls or clothes.

Once the strings are prepared and made in to a bowl, the Shemane uses weaving machine (on the color picture where the man is sitting and operating a manual weaving machine) to make the gabi - shawls, dresses or shirts.

Once the cotton is turned into fabric, then the actual patterns are sawn in by hand. This whole process will take days and is not conducive to mass production; but for getting that one of a kind shawl or cultural cloth to wear and adore the 100% handmade process is the sure way.

Source: (a Los Angeles store selling handmade Ethiopian clothing)


Cotton Textiles of Ethiopia

The production of cotton textiles was carried out in all parts of the country. Gondar, Adwa, Ankobar and Harar were, however, famous for particularly fine cloth.

Ruppell stated in the early nineteenth century that Gondar was renowned for its cloth throughout Ethiopia, particularly for a silky thread which was used in the embroidery of women's clothes and for the hats worn by Muslims, while Combes and Tamisier noticed that the city produced the finest woven material.

Adwa, observed the British traveller Henry Salt, was a great centre for both coarse and fine cloth, a statement echoed by the German observer Gerhard Rohlfs in the latter part of the century.

The coarse cloth of Adwa, according to Salt, was "unrivalled in any other part of the country" and was made out of cotton imported via Massawa, while the finer material which was made from cotton grown on the low lands bordering on the Takaze River was thought "little inferior" to that of Gondar. Combes and Tamisier assert that the weavers employed by Sahla Sellassie in Shawa rivaled those of Gondar.

Further to the East, the city of Harar was also renowned for the manufacture of textiles. The English traveller Richard Burton in the middle of the century declared that the robes and sashes of Harar were "considered equal to the celebrated cloths of Shoa," and, being hand woven, far surpassed "the rapid produce of European manufactories in beauty and durability as the perfect hand of man excels the finest machinery.

The Traditional Ethiopian Loom

Two stakes perhaps as high as a man would be struck in the ground a metre and a half or so apart and would be kept firm by the attachment of a third piece of wood or pole which would be tied to the top of the two vertical posts thus joining them together. Towards each end of the horizontal pole a string made of wool was lowered to subtend a thin piece of wood, perhaps a span long. which served as a kind of balance from each end of which other strings were lowered to hold a couple of weaver's reeds or combs. These latter were made of a couple of long thin horizontal pieces of wood or cane joined together by innumerable strings between which the weft passed.

Source: Traditional Ethiopian Weaving Technology - and the Advent of Foreign Machine-made Imports by Professor Richard Pankhurst

1 comment:

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