All over the world, throughout the ages, women have sat at their spinning wheels and looms, producing all kinds of yarns and textiles. The distaff side – the phrase is old-fashioned, but it shows that the wife was defined by her occupation as a spinner and weaver.
Sometimes the wool, flax, silk or cotton is left in its natural state, sometimes it’s dyed using whatever raw ingredients can be found at hand. Inspiration for patterns comes from the environment: the landscape, animals, leaves, the sky, water – the list is endless.
This is the song I imagine a simple peasant woman might sing at her loom. Next time you see a handmade textile from a so-called “simple” or “primitive” culture, maybe you will hear her song woven into it.
Long hours I’ve sat at my loom today
The wool is soft, but my fingers are sore.
The shuttle flies faster than yesterday
And the pattern is clearer than ever before.
My colours are bright, my design is clear,
In woof and weft my thoughts appear.
Sometimes I think of the days gone by
And visit the places where memories lurk,
Then unattended my shuttle will fly
Weaving my past into my work.
My mother taught me the skills I know,
And I pass them on as my daughters grow.
The clouds in the sky are heavenly sheep,
Is their fleece softer than that of mine?
The moonlight paints the colours of sleep
And I dye my wool in the warm sunshine.
These are the shades I weave into my mat,
They look like the coat of my tabby cat.
The leaves on the trees go from green to gold,
From gold to red and red to brown,
The days grow short and the wind grows cold
My cloth will make you a winter gown.
See how the colours blend and blur,
As if they were a wild animal’s fur.
I sing my song as I sit at my loom
Mood and melody harmonise,
Colours and shapes rise out of the gloom
And form a design before my eyes.
Listen and look, you’ll hear and see:
My weaving records this harmony.