The Art of Hand Weaving

Words by Martina Orbea

Sardinia is renowned for the complicated craft of creating fabrics by hand but, as Martina Orbea writes, it was almost lost. Three distinct regions have preserved and reinvented these traditions to create some of the most interesting and beautiful cloth that can be found anywhere in the world.

Sardinian culture is a fusion of the many different civilizations that influenced the island’s customs and traditions over many centuries. Sardinia has easy access to a folklore with deep, ancient roots. Craftsmanship is highly valued in Sardinia, especially textile making.

It came unfortunately close to becoming a lost art as a younger generation showed less interest in learning the craft. Thankfully there are some who have taken an interest and now it is celebrated worldwide. Hand weaving is very intricate and time consuming; Sardinia is known for its different patterns and range of colors.The materials and the patterns vary depending on the region and the most important ones are Samugheo, Aggius and Nule.

Without a doubt, the most renowned textiles in Sardinia are those from Samugheo. These distinctive patterns are made out of small bumps of thread called pibiones.

Each one of them is made individually by hand, the design is previously sketched on graph paper. The pibiones are then added to a base made out of fibers which in turn complements the pattern by adding texture to it. For this type of weaving, each component uses different materials. Cotton is now generally used for warps, linen is used for the confection of pibiones and the weft is made out of wool and cotton.The creation of these fabrics is truly a complicated art. The weaver must keep count of the warp fibers as well as the pibiones.

Nule is a region deep in the mountains. The cool and thin atmosphere allows for great wool which over time has become well known by weavers not only in Sardinia but all over the world.

What differentiates this wool from others is its treatment prior to use. It is spun and dyed into very distinctive colors typical of the region. Unlike in Samugheo, weavers in Nule use vertical looms. The different types of looms dictate the techniques and the design, which explains the difference in designs. What sets these textiles aside from the others, is the combination of materials. The use of wool, warp and weft gives a unique density to the fabric. The patterns are usually geometrical and sometimes in stripes. It is said that they have esoteric meanings which only makes them that much more special.

Located in the north of the island, Aggius is not only known for its granite, but also for its strong textile making tradition. What differentiates this region from the others, is the preparation of the materials.

They are all collected from the region and treated there before the confection. The textiles are all hand made since they never really took on the new forms of weaving given the fact that they thought it took away an important part of the art. The patterns found on these textiles are mostly geometrical and they combine the techniques of Samugheo and Nule.

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