Indonesian Handwoven Crafts

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The Traditional Weaving Machine

is one of the most useful tools in the creation of Indonesian crafts. While it is called a 'machine', this tool is nothing like the modern devices we see in high-tech factories. Instead, these are traditional, manually-operated looms used to produce items such as handwoven fabrics and straw mats.

We first came across the technique on one of our artisan discovery trips. We came across a room of old ladies who were busy operating these traditional looms with their hand and feet, with music and their chatter sounds playing in the background.

The work may seem simple and repetitive, however there are lots of skills and steps involved.

For example, to produce a simple stretch of handwoven fabric, such as lurik, which can then be used as clothes or household items, here are the steps:

1) Colouring of threads:

A piece of lurik fabric is woven from a combination of coloured threads which have been designed to show a particular pattern on the finished product. The artisan will firstly create a design for the finished product, before then dyeing the threads in the appropriate colours and amounts to meet that design.

2) Creation of thread spools:

Threads which have ben coloured through the dyeing process are then dried under the natural sun. Once fully dry, they are then spun into individually-coloured spools.

3) Thread arrangement:

This is the step that is most difficult and requires the most patience and precision in the whole process. The thread arrangement process requires for the thousands of dyed and dried strands to be arranged in the pattern of the finished product. As each pattern requires different weaving steps, this can turn out to be a laborious step.

4) Feeding the loom:

Once the thread arrangement step has been completed, the threads will then, strand by strand , be inserted into the loom according to the composition required by the final pattern. This step is normally carried out by two people - one to separate the individual strands to then pass to the second person to feed into the traditional loom.

5) Weaving:

The threads which have now been set up on the traditional loom are now ready to be woven.

Here are the five steps involved in the creation of a woven fabric using the traditional looms. The amount of time, precision and effort required in the process is the reason why handwoven fabrics can sometimes fetch a higher price compared to its machine-produced counterparts.