The women of Nuandari village, Indonesia, have been weaving since they were girls. Worldette writer Rachel Hand met one of them, Matilda, and learned a new appreciation for women of the world who weave.
Beautiful woven fabric hangs all around the wooden walls of the hut in front of Matilda’s family home where she works as a weaver.
In Nuandari and the neighbouring villages in Flores, Indonesia, girls learn to weave from primary school age, and by the time they reach middle school, they are already proficient weavers.
Matilda, a middle-aged mother, explained to me that teaching their girls to weave gives them a way to earn their living in the future without having to work in the fields. Her youngest daughter, still at primary school, showed me how she could already spin the cotton thread into balls.
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Spinning and Dying
Surrounded by her creations, from long tubular sarongs to smaller scarves in a huge variety of patterns, designs and colours, I listened to Matilda describe the weaving process.
At first the cotton is spun into balls; Matilda uses a mixture of natural and shop-bought cotton. This is then dyed, a skill she learnt from her mother and is passing on to her children.
She uses natural dyes from plants and nuts, some of which were familiar to me, like turmeric, macadamia nut and indigo.
The cotton is stretched out across a long frame and, in a process similar to tie-dying but on a more detailed scale, thin coconut-leaf threads are tied around the cotton before it is dyed a different colour. The places tied up will retain the original shade.
Finally the dye is sealed using tamarind seed oil, so you can wash Matilda’s fabrics and the colour won’t fade.
Weaving on a Loom
The weaving process takes place on a long loom.
Sitting on the floor, strapped into the loom with her legs outstretched in front of her, one of Matilda’s daughters gave me a demonstration of the weaving process, which is all done by hand.
Making a Sarong can take Six Months
A single sarong can take up to six months to make, from a ball of white cotton to a dyed woven piece of clothing. Different designs are used for different occasions, with local residents ordering sarongs for special occasions months in advance.
Designs range from simple stripes to complex pictures of ships or people.
Weaving is a craft found in many parts of the world, not only in Flores, Indonesia. Learning about the process involved in creating such beautiful fabrics from the people whose families have been weavers for generations is fascinating.
Perhaps it will make you think twice next time a sarong or scarf seller approaches you on your travels!
Have you met any artisans on your travels, who left an impression? Have you been to Flores or another region where women are using their traditional craft skills to make a living? Tell us about it in the comments below!