“The most exciting textile tour you are ever likely to find – the trip of a lifetime!” This is the lead sentence for the Tribal Weaving of the Lesser Sunda Islands of Indonesia that hooked me this past May. Did it hook you? Indonesia has been at the top of my textile travel list since I bought my very first collectible piece in my twenties–a ceremonial sarong in deep indigo and morinda with silk-weft brocading. I didn’t know much about it until this trip. But thanks to the knowledge of British textile experts and tour leaders, David and Sue Richardson, and the visits with so many weavers, I do now.
On the remote islands of Flores, Lembata, Alor, Timor, Savu, and Sumba, women still spin their own cotton, prepare their own natural dyes of indigo and morinda, and weave on traditional back-tension looms. There will be more blogs to come about the tour days of adventurous boat travel with visits to eighteen weaving villages. But for now, feast on some images and sign up for the 2017 tour. These distant and culturally-rich islands offer some of the most diverse ikat textiles in the world. Given the encroachment of the modern world, the question of how long they will be sustained remains– maybe a generation.
Every village welcomed us in their own special way.
Music and dance was common, as were cultural performances.
Spinning, Natural Dyeing, and Weaving
The common elements for the weaving villages was the handspinning of cotton, natural dyeing with indigo and morinda root, and the laborious process of ikat weaving. I never tired of the demonstrations.
The handspinning of cotton was a process in itself. Not all weavers still do handspinning, as they can buy commercial cotton thread now. For you spinners, here’s a niddy noddy treat.
After spinning, and other steps in between, starts the intricate process of preparing the warp for ikat dyeing, followed by natural dyeing, then untying the resist wraps.
And the end results are stunning ikat weavings.
Not Just Textiles
This tour isn’t all textiles. The traditional and cultural exchanges were beyond memorable. As was the natural environs of every island.
But, for me, the beauty of the people and richness of culture was worth its weight in textile gold.
If you’re interested in other textile travel ClothRoads has a curated list here.
If you’ve enjoyed this armchair journey, share it on to others. We and the artisans thank you.