|Looming - Better known as Weaving...
In the room in which we sleep is an old Cretan loom. It is a working loom, used almost daily and is in excellent condition. My wife Pam bought it several years ago from the family of Kryiacos Patsakis in a neighbouring village. His wife had decided that she was not going to use it anymore. It had belonged to her mother before her. At the time we bought it we were on holiday from the UK and, although we had bought a property here, it was still derelict. A Cretan neighbour stored the loom for us until our house was habitable. That's the effect weaving has on people. Magical. Hypnotic... The woven cloth having a beauty quite different to modern mass production. At that time Pam could not even weave!
|Hand-Weaving on Crete seems to be a dying art. Skills which for generations have been passed from mother to daughter are becoming defunct as the modern world arrives into even the remotest areas. As far as we know, the only remaining commercially active hand-weaving workshop in the city of Chania is at Rokka Carpets, just off the old harbour.|
Roka Carpets Zampeliou 61, Chania
|If you are in the harbour and are interested in weaving have a look at Rokka carpets. Here you will find Michaelis, master weaver, hard at work creating his latest project, whilst stacked on tables and hanging around the walls some of the finished products which are for sale. This is genuine Cretan weaving and the products are sold, and sent if you wish, world-wide. They are not cheap - but then it can take many days to make a large carpet. There are smaller items such as Cretan shoulder bags 'Tagaria' and colourful wall hangings available. Better still for the interested, Michaelis can and does weave whilst talking, answering what must be an endless stream of questions and explaining anything asked. He once made the day of our 3 year old nephew by sitting him next to him and letting him hold the beater - the swinging bar that presses the threads together - as he worked on a carpet. He also promised him that he would tell the American customer that he had him help make it. Brilliant!|
Anogia is a village high up in the mountains near Iraklion, Capital City of Crete. It is here that you will find a thriving hand-weaving community still using the same looms that have produced their own cloth for generations. There is also a wool factory, taking the wool shorn from the local sheep and producing wool carded for spinning and weaving. There are several shops in Anogia aimed at the tourist trade, and you can still see hand-weaving in action. Be warned though, these tough mountain villagers are hard sellers of their work, and remember if you visit or stay there that, unless you are a regular visitor or resident, then this may be your only chance to buy some very genuine Cretan weaving.
|Our own loom...
Here in Astratigos my wife Pam has not only renovated her loom but has learned to weave; found a source of traditional warp in Chania at a carpet shop whose owner has a degree in the craft; and has now completed several projects. A wall hanging; a table cover; a child's cot blanket; several carpets, including her most ambitious project to date, a large patterned carpet to her own design. Her Ashford spinning wheel is modern and not yet mastered. It was assembled and finished by a friend from England, who also spent hours of his holiday time here repairing the original broken string heddles on the loom. Another friend wood-turned some quite beautiful oak pulleys to replace the originals, which had been lost, and we have a good source of original spare reeds of various pitch in Chania. The latter the sad result of families selling off their old looms or these being rescued from abandonment by shops such as Cretan Monastiraki. Sometimes to be exported to countries as far away as America. But at least that ensures their survival.
Being largely an onlooker, it often seemed to me that renovating the loom to working condition and learning to use it would be easy. But one of the major obstacles to success was the lack of books in English about Cretan looms and weaving. Indeed there often seemed a lack of books in Greek - even in bookshops we visited in Athens. However, weaving shops in the UK proved an invaluable source of material and have always been keen to help at very modest prices. The local ladies in the village were all keen supporters, but of course had given up themselves because they no longer had the time available. Their advice was sometimes (being Cretan) strongly conflicting - each having their own handed-down versions of how weaving should be done. Each probably equally effective. The one I liked best was from one of our several Eleni's. Eleni advised placing the business end of the loom against a wall - and being sure to apply considerable force to swinging the beater to compress the wefts! "Boom" was her description as she demonstrated this, "Boom!"
|Weaving is of course one of only several Cretan arts and crafts. This - the weaving section, is currently being developed further to include natural dyes which will be added as soon as photographs are available. If you would like to see anything in particular please let us know - we will do our best to add it to the site if we can. For now - the weaving commences....|