All posts filed under: Hand weaving

IMG_5902 thumb

Ancient tradition

The fabric-making tradition of the Miao ethnic minorities can be traced back at least 1000 years. Fabrics were lightweight and easily transportable during these frequent periods of war and migration. The symbolic iconography protected its wearer from harmful spirits while chronicling the story of their people. In this image, an elderly woman weaves fabric for her funeral. It is a tradition for family members of the deceased to wear white fabric on their heads during the funeral ceremony. By weaving the fabric herself, she explained that she was relieving the burden of her children from having to weave the fabric themselves. Of course, I was very touched by this and quietly watched her weave until sundown.

IMG_0071 thumb

Hand weaving

Before the Industrial Revolution, all fabric in the Western world was woven on hand-looms and did not use any electricity. It was a precious material that could be re-used, re-incorporated into new clothes, or over-dyed to give it a fresh look. In Florence during the Renaissance, velvet fabric took months to produce and the gowns produced from them could fetch the price of a house! In France, the Jacquard loom was one of the great technological inventions of the 18th century and could be “programmed” with replaceable punch cards to create complex brocades and damask fabrics. The hand-loom is said to be the pre-cursor to the modern day computer, as is explained in great detail in Jacquard’s Web: How a Hand-Loom Led to the Birth of the Information Age. Just two decades ago, people across rural China remember watching their mothers hand-weave fabric at home during their youth. This has disappeared rapidly as the country has modernized and moved the population into the big cities. Guizhou province is one of the few places in China where families still weave their own fabric at home. Hand-woven fabrics take …

IMG_0132 thumb

Three generations making fabric

This image captures the different experiences of three generations in one village: The grandmother wears an everyday traditional-style costume that she made herself, complete with a head covering that identifies her as coming from Tang’an village. She rarely leaves her village and has spent her entire life living off the land as a farmer. She knows how to grow and make everything one needs for survival, and she would have had to all the clothes for herself and the family. The mother wears modern machine-made clothing that was bought in a nearby city. She never learned the fabric-weaving craft because she left the village at a young age to become a migrant worker in the coastal factories. Having earned and saved up enough money to build a family, she has returned to her village to raise her daughter. By helping the grandmother prepare the thread for the loom, the mother is learning the fabric-weaving tradition in the process. The granddaughter has grown up in a modern China driven by new technology. She enjoys playing games on her mother’s cell phone — a device that was bought from money her mother earned …