A Weaving Wonder

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I received a beautiful surprise today, the postman delivered this purse sent by the weaver Rolandos in Cyprus. I’d interviewed him for my book and sent him a complimentary copy.As a token of his appreciation he made me this purse. Isn’t it fabulous?

On the packaging it describes it thus :-

“This herringbone technique, known since prehistoric times , is applied in the weaving of this piece, following the patterns of traditional Cypriot fabrics.

The fine weaving of such fabrics called ’twilled kyparrissota’ or ‘blocked’ during the 19th and 20th century AD put the  now occupied areas of Karavas and Lapithos on the map, making them known for their woven silk fabrics.

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Silks and Snow

As I mentioned a few weeks ago my friend Gill from Paisley Pedlar http://paisleypedlar.wordpress. and I had planned a trip to visit the Whitchurch Silk Mill and yesterday was the day. We were a bit apprehensive before the trip as the weather has been very disruptive with the snow and ice but once again fortune smiled on us and we set off on clear roads. Gill was driving and she decided to take the scenic route which goes through some lovely countryside up the Downs if you get my drift. Completely to our delight we came across this fabulous winter wonderland of trees completely covered in snow, looking ever so much as if a huge dredger of icing sugar had been liberally sprinkled. I have never seen anything like it before.

We arrived in good time at the mill and made our first call at the shop which is at the entrance. We became enraptured by the beautiful celebration silk which was produced last year as part of a feasibility study. The mill had not been in production for several months and now with a new board of directors it is hoped it will start producing again very soon. The shop has some lovely examples of the luxurious and high quality silks produced made into items such as table runners and very elegant doorstops as well as a delightful needlebooks and rosette ruffles.

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The mill was built in 1815 and in its past wove the linings for Burberry’s based in nearby  Alton, it was weaving right up until 1985 when The Hampshire Buildings Preservation Trust bought it to preserve and restore it. In 1990 the mill was opened to the public under the management of  The Whitchurch Silk Mill Trust.

The silk produced at the mill has been in demand in the recent past, by theatrical costumers and the cafe walls are lined with photos of the period production pieces as well as the many films and television productions which have featured Whitchurch Mill silks.

Organza, georgette, crepe, chiffon, dupion these names conjure up the variety and richness of texture into which silk thread is woven. The silk comes from all over the world as Britain is unable to produce any due to the climate. Although several of the looms were threaded up there were no weavers working that day. This was a disappointment to me as I would have loved to see the mechanised looms in action. But not to be outdone I had a go on a manual loom set up for visitors to try, complete with instructions. I have always loved silk fabric, the lustre of it gives the colours an eloquence and depth unrivalled by any other thread. The colours are gorgeous.

The river that runs by the mill was in full torrent due to the recent rainfall and a very large group of ducks were struggling against the flow. It certainly is a very picturesque spot and I hope they will continue weaving that fabulous silk very far into the future.

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A Friday Tale

Troodos mountains offer a very modern infrastr...

Troodos mountains offer a very modern infrastructure (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After reading about the snow in Cyprus last week the snow has now also arrived in Tangmere today.  I found a nice little article here at On This Island  illustrating the extraordinary phenomenon that is Cyprus in winter, where you can go up to Troodos and ski in the morning then go down to the beach for a swim in the afternoon.

We don’t have quite enough snow here to ski although we do have a few hills where you can have fun sledding have you a mind to. If the snow is still around tomorrow and it looks as if it will be, I will be out with my camera and taking a few photos but not from a sled! I wanted to build a snowman earlier but when  I poked my nose outside the door this morning it was snowing a veritable blizzard, so I brought it back in sharpish and decided that making bread would be more of a suitable pastime.

I’ve also been browsing the web of course, perfect day for it, I was reading a recent post by Cypriot and Proud which was on a topic I relish: artisan/designers. This post  focuses on a young Cypriot weaver designer Joanna Louca who  studied ‘Textile constructed design’  and then gained a masters in ‘Textile in Art’ at Middlesex University London.  She now has a weaving studio in Cyprus where the textiles are produced and has collaborated with Italian designers to produce some wonderful bags. She also weaves her textiles to use  in all manner of creative ways, I love her colour combinations and her patterns echo the traditional patterns used in Cyprus for centuries.

I was thrilled to see this article as it is a fervent wish of mine to see the valuable traditional crafts like weaving and basket making, being used by young artists designers to produce contemporary and exciting designs, looks like Joanna is doing just that. I love it. She will be someone I would very much like to visit in person on a future visit, to see those beautiful textiles for myself.

Joanna Louca's work Photo courtesy of Cypriot and Proud

Joanna Louca’s work Photo courtesy of Cypriot and Proud

Fun at Fyti – Cyprus on a Plate

FytiWeavingReport

As I have mentioned before, Sara Dixon and Maura McKee from the UK have joined forces with the weavers of Fyti and the Laona Foundation in Cyprus to find ways of not only preserving the weaving traditions of Fyti but Cypriot weaving traditions in general. This is a project not just to preserve the past but to carry these valuable skills forward into the future where they can be discovered by future generations to use and innovate.

A report is now out, as you will see above, where the meeting of all those concerned have produced various strategies and  now various actions to get the project moving forward. It is very exciting to see what can be achieved with energy, enthusiasm, collaboration and communication. Since the initial meeting between Maura, Sara and the people of Fyti, weaving classes have been set up as well as some cookery classes available to anyone interested and some accommodation is available locally, the idea is to get the classes running and then slowly more facilities can be put in place as the project becomes established.

Traditionally weavers have always been self- employed and their work sold piecemeal, so many women who possibly would like to earn an income from weaving are worried that there is not enough demand or the price they will get paid per piece not enough to enable them to earn a regular living. But as the report shows, demand outstrips supply at present and with more exposure and more being produced I am sure there will be no shortage of buyers. I for one would welcome a wider choice of availability and it would be exciting to see the different districts once again producing their individual weaving styles.

Please check out the report and the Phytiotika Facebook page where the latest updates on the project and activities can be found or the website whose link is found on the blogroll right.

The Threads that Connect us

Fythkiotika

I’ve just read the latest update on the Phitiotika Facebook page posting a link to the blog Threads that Connect Us. This is another project set up  with some European Commission funding connecting several European partners, including Cyprus, in a project to promote and encourage learning of the traditional textile skills to enable them to continue through the next generations. In many of the regions taking part these traditional skills are looked on as something of the past, anachronistic and not relevant to the society of today, therefore not of any interest to the younger generations and so the skills are not passed on as they once were.

In the village of Lefkara the skills of their particular kind of embroidery have been passed down from mother to daughter and in some families is still today.

lefkaritika

Textile skills such as: preparation of yarns, weaving, embroidery and so on are all activities that require patience as well as skill and necessitates the practitioners to have a certain mindset that is not generally encouraged by our fast paced living with the need for instant gratification. But the very fact that it requires sitting still  and focusing on something gives it a meditative quality which is surely something that could benefit us all from time to time. A place to rest the mind from the pressures of modern life. Maybe it should be prescribed as an antidote to burn out… now there’s a thought.

Weavers Unite!- Cyprus on a Plate

Weavers at the Handicraft Centre weaving fythkiotika

I’m very excited …it doesn’t take much.

Today, while searching WordPress for other blogs relating to topics I cover in my book ‘Androula’s Kitchen’, I came across Phitiotika. It is a site set up by two British artists Maura McKee and Sarah Dixon, they both have connections with Cyprus and had a strong empathy with the weavers of Fyti who are struggling to keep their weaving traditions alive in a dwindling village. They, like myself, feel there should be a way to carry on the strong traditions and heritage of weaving in  Cyprus, through the younger generations by encouraging innovation and diversity.

Throughout the centuries Cyprus has had a reputation for fine weaving. Each region had their own specialities and styles. At one time their was an abundance of silk and silk weaving was commonplace. Each family would own a loom and the women of the household wove all the  linen needed for everyday life  including their clothing and bedding. Silk worms were cultivated, cotton grown and there were plenty of sheep to supply wool.  Silk is no longer cultivated and the weaving of silk has not been practised in Cyprus since the 1960s. Life has changed rapidly and people live different lives where there is no necessity to make everything themselves with mass production and cheap imports.

Fyti, in the Paphos region of Cyprus, has a very particular style of weaving which incorporates patterns of coloured wools. The patterns are mostly geometric and each weaver would make their own patterns usually telling a story. Maura McKee and Sarah Dixon are working together with The Laona Foundation to come up with a plan for conserving and recording the weaving practises of Fyti while setting in place  initiatives which will encourage Cypriot artists to embrace and improvise on this valuable heritage as well as academics, artists, textile collectors and weavers internationally, with the help of the internet. Sarah has experience of working on cultural and conservation projects in several countries. Their aim:

“The aim of this proposed project is to reinvigorate and recontextualise Phiti weaving, and to support Phiti weavers in their practice. We are setting out to catalyse a process of conserving and adapting tradition.”

You can find out more on their blog, the link is on the blogroll and join their Facebook page.

I wish them both every success in this endeavour as this issue is close to my heart.

WEAVERS UNITE!