Bedouin Woven Bag

August 25, 2014

One of the most pleasurable aspects to writing a blog about making things is when people share special handmade items with you.  A couple of weeks ago, a friend lent me this extraordinary woven bag.

IMG_3644This bag is so tough and strong, I am sure it could deflect lightening or survive a sandstorm. Seth had bought the bag whilst travelling in the Middle East.  He had kept the label attached and I will share with you what it says.

This product was hand-made with dedication and love of their weaving heritage by Bedouin Women in the Negev Desert. It was woven on a traditional ground loom using highest quality Awassi sheep’s wool that is handspun and made into yarn. The women of Lakiya Negev Weaving dye and weave the wool and work communally through their own co-operative enterprise which they manage themselves. No child labour is used by Lakiya Negev Weaving.

There was so much in that label I wanted to know more about and I had a fine old time exploring the interwebs.

Lakiya Negev Weaving is located in Israel but there are several similar organisations in the region such as Al Sadu Weaving Co-operative in Kuwait and the Bani Hamida Women’s Weaving Project in Jordan.  As formerly nomadic people, the Bedouin have settled in many countries and work hard to preserve their handcraft traditions.

IMG_3637The Lakiya Negev Weaving co-operative is an empowerment organisation run by and for Bedouin women to provide training, education and income generation opportunities.  The organisation currently supports about seventy women who are divided into six groups, each of which manage a processing stage in the weaving enterprise.

Spinners spin single yarns on hand spindles. These spindles are top whorl spindles about 60 cm long, so they can hold a lot of yarn. The following image shows a demonstration of spinning at the cooperative. Notice that the spinner has a ball of yarn behind her.  She might be plying from two or more singles wound into a ball.

Negev_Weaving,_Lakiya spinningFree image by Dr. Avishai Teicher Pikiwiki Israel from Wiki Commons

Skeiners prepare the singles for dyeing and then dyers dye the yarns. Interweavers ply the singles together to make a strong, durable yarn.

Weavers weave on traditional, home made, ground looms. In this next image, you can see the loom being demonstrated at the cooperative.

PikiWiki_Israel_33664_Negev_Weaving_in_LakiyaFree image by Dr. Avishai Teicher Pikiwiki Israel from Wiki Commons

A traditional Bedouin loom is made of simple materials. Basically it consists of two metal or wooden bars resting against four tent stakes driven into the ground and sometimes…blocked by stones. The warp yarns are wound over the bars. The flat weave of the surface is found only in rugs made according to this Bedouin technique.

Finishers sew the final articles, attach tassels and provide quality control.

Awassi sheep used by the co-operative are indigenous to Lebanon, Jordan and Israel and are very important sheep in the broader region.  They are hardy, fat-tailed sheep that according to experts have been bred in the area for over 5000 years.  The sheep are bred for meat, milk and fibre, having a mixture of hair and sturdy carpet type wool.  They are tended by Bedouin shepherds and shorn once a year with hand shears. You can see some wonderful pics of Awassi sheep here.

Seth Lakiya Negev Weaving picImage by permission of Seth Seiderman

Seth came to the Negev desert as part of a round-the-world trip with his wife and children. On their last day in Israel…

we rented a car and drove out to the Dead Sea, then headed south in the Negev region. I had read about the Lakiya Bedouin Women’s Weaving Cooperative in a guidebook (I think) and we had a contact phone number and some directions from their website. However, we did not have a GPS and were having great difficulty finding it as the afternoon grew late. Finally, we got there as they were about to close. The two women were very accommodating and gave us a short tour, showing us the weaving techniques used in this traditional craft. The little shop-front was full of wonderful weavings, including very coarse rugs and many similar bags. I would have loved to buy more but our backpacks were fully loaded so I had to settle for this little token.

IMG_3651If Bedouin textiles interest you or you are curious about their weaving techniques, you might enjoy this video that Seth also sent me.  It is a narrated video of a 2012 exhibition Tents and Camels: the Bedouin Textile Collection of Joy and Robert Hilden. Make yourself a cuppa…it is a long one!

Thank you Seth for sharing.