In Ethiopia, hand weaving is an important tradition with deep roots. For generations, all over the country, many households have depended on weaving to earn income and sustain livelihoods. Handloom weaving is a demanding trade traditionally done by men whereas the spinning of cotton in preparation of weaving is often done by women, including elderly women.
There are strong regional styles and traditional designs, for example, the Wolayta people of southwest Ethiopia are known for their iconic red, yellow and black denguza pattern.
Today, the work itself remains largely the same: fabrics are woven on looms using distinct sets of yarns or threads that are interlaced at right angles. In most of the industrialized world, weaving artisans are dying out, due to the increased use of the power loom
Women spin the cotton into thread that’s loaded onto spools and then strung onto the loom’s warp (lengthwise thread) and weft (the thread that weaves in and out of the warp thread). The sound of handloom weaving is unmistakable. The shush of the flying shuttle – a small missile-shaped object, often fashioned from dogwood, that holds the weft thread – as it’s thrown through the shed, or warp threads. The slam of the beater. The click of the heddle.
Weavers commonly use two different types of looms. The first is the meweroria, where the weaver throws the bobbin side to side. The other type is the ground loom. With the ground loom, a hole is dug on the ground and the weaver moves the shuttle with his feet alternately up and down to interweave the threads.