First posted 8th September 2012

In an earlier post I mentioned that at some point I would try to get to see some villages near Denizli where weaving "atolyes" still function. This Summer one of my suppliers obliged, and took me to his workshop in a small town which is historically one of the most important weaving centres in Turkey

I was a very lucky boy as it was a Thursday just after the end of Ramadan. It's the custom for a lot of people to take the whole week off since it really is a huge holiday (four and a half days, so essentially a week), similar to the Chinese New Year where everybody goes back to their families. So I was privileged to spend a good 2-3 hours with a weaver who was locally-based and who delighted in my desire to deepen my first-hand knowledge and watch these wonderful old looms in action. 

We took lots of photos and I really hope they give visitors to the Zarafet site a flavour of how much work goes into the making of handloomed products. For example you need one weaver to watch over every working loom. Since the processes aren't highly automated there is a lot more to keep an eye on: not least manually reloading the shuttle (you need to suck the thread through the holes at the end), ensuring the shuttle is moving correctly  and making sure the pattern or looping (for terry/towelling products) is being followed correctly.  

                                Cotton is spun onto lots of quills to make them ready for the shuttle

The work is meticulous and because it is not a sophisticated power loom there needs to be more hands-on focus and manipulation to ensure the quality of the finished product. You could argue that for a weaver the process can be likened to flying a small aeroplane manually versus piloting a highly automated and much larger commercial airline. I have a relation who does indeed fly smaller planes in Canada and I know he loves the notion of working independently, of working more hands-on and of "real" piloting. It's the same for these small workshop weavers, so I hope the comparison works for you. 

Examining an idle loom still fascinates me - it's like a fragile work of art, with thousands of individual warp threads delicately suspended through the "kasa" containing the heddles, or needles through which the threads are held. This then leaps into life when the loom is functioning, holding yarns up in various configurations to allow the shuttle to bomb through the gap or "shed". The looms I saw working managed around 120 picks a minute (a pick is a full journey by the shuttle from one side to the other). 

              Shuttle and weft yarn, the gap it passes through, overhead view of heddles holding warp yarns

I hope you find these photos interesting. I simply adore the level of workmanship and attention which goes into the making of these products, for me they are magical and have been made with a little bit of extra love. 

                     Weave detail showing selvedge and single blue weft yarn, woven product beneath loom