Home PageMadagascarScarf of the Month: Wild Silk Lace from Madagascar

Aug 15

Scarf of the Month: Wild Silk Lace from Madagascar

I stood staring at this handwoven, handspun wild silk scarf made by artisans in Madagascar. If anyone was watching me, they probably thought something was wrong with the scarf, or me. But not having time to really figure out what was different about this weaving, I bought a few of these lace scarves to share with you. Plus I wanted to analyze this wondrous scarf further for my scarf pick this month.

The leno lace runs vertically in wild silk scarf from Madagascar.

The leno lace runs vertically in wild silk scarf from Madagascar.

The Wild Silk Yarn
First off, the yarn is scrumptious. The cooperative Federation Sahalandy raises the wild, large, indigenous Malagasy silkworm and spins this luscious wild silk from its cocoon. The yarn looks a bit untamed too in its irregular, thick-and-thinness. Some of the handspun is naturally dyed into an array of colors from local materials such as bark, soil, leaves, and flowers; others are kept in their natural state, such as this scarf.

The Weave
So what was it that puzzled me about this scarf? The weave is a simple leno-style lace weave. But the lace was running vertically, not horizontally, and leno weave is a horizontal weave structure-it can’t be woven vertically. (Leno is made by hand crossing a group of warp threads, holding these crossed threads in place with a stick, weaving a row with the weft yarn thereby holding the crossed threads in place, pulling out the stick, and resuming plain weave. These actions create a horizontal leno lace structure.) So how the heck did this leno run in the opposite direction?

Then it dawned on me. The vertical lace was formed after the scarf came off the loom. As the weaver set up her loom, she left 1” gaps in the warp (the threads running vertical on the loom). During the weaving, the weft yarns (the ones running horizontally) would “float” across the gap areas. After the piece was woven, the weaver hand crossed ½” groups of the floating weft yarns, needleweaving a warp yarn in and out of each crossed group, securing the crossed threads in place. The net result is simply elegant.

Groups of weft threads are crossed and held in place by needleweaving in a warp thread after the woven scarf comes off the loom.

Groups of weft threads are crossed and held in place by needleweaving in a warp thread after the woven scarf comes off the loom.

No two scarves are the same–when this one is gone you’ll have to choose a different pattern, or one with a horizontal leno lace from the ClothRoads shop. And now that you know about this scarf, let me tell you a bit about the weavers who make them.

Federation Sahalandy’s Story
Last year I introduced you to the cooperative Federation Sahalandy, just one of a number of cooperatives who have joined together in the spinning and weaving the traditional cloth of the Malagasy culture. Thanks to many efforts, there is now a growing market for silk and traditional silk weaving has returned. In the last two years, the “Silkies” have used their earnings to build three bungalows and a showroom for tourists on the eco-tourism circuit.

The weavers and spinners from Federation Sahalandy, Madagascar.

The weavers and spinners from Federation Sahalandy, Madagascar.

A primary goal for the Federation is to expand and welcome more females into their cooperatives, and continue to empower their daughters. Placing a greater emphasis on equality, fairness, and professionalism, they work hard for a sustainable income to support their families with safe homes and nutritional food. Above all, their aim is to be financially self-sufficient. The women have gone from not realizing their potential to transforming into a group clear in their choice to continue this tradition. They have now been asked to hold higher positions in society because their life change is so well respected.

CLOTHROADS NOW STOCKS THESE ONE-OF-A-KIND SILK WRAPS FROM FEDERATION SAHALANDY.

If you’d like to learn more, watch this trailer from a documentary about the Silkies of Madagascar produced by David Evans http://vimeo.com/44541008

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