The Cloud Bath Mat and the Cloud Rug were the first products at Barrydale Hand Weavers that caught out eyes. Their unique fuzzy texture and the versatile natural color immediately sparked our imagination of 101 ways to place them - sometimes with a little layering and mixing-and-matching - in different rooms around the house. What has made us love them even more is the fact we learned later that they are net-zero products: Upcycling discarded materials from local textile factories, weavers at Barrydale create these rugs and mats entirely by hand on their wooden shuttle looms. The whole process involves zero watt of electricity used.
And this is how they make it happen -
The base material of the rugs is the edges of cotton fabric, cut from local industrial looms around Barrydale, South Africa. They’re “waste” – a by-product of their weaving patterns – but for the weavers at Barrydale, this raw material is an invaluable ingredient for upcycling. The material is delivered on pallets, in large bails or in bags, and usually in a natural cotton color.
Now that the weavers are in possession of this waste that’s about to become something wonderful, they’ve got to sort it: it’s separated by hand to create balls with a similar texture or color. This is a labour-intensive job, and it’s widely agreed that this is the least enjoyable task in the process of creating the Cloud Mats and Rugs.
The warp for the mats and rugs is polyester, so as to ensure durability and hold everything together tightly.
Getting the warp onto the loom is a loud, boisterous team effort that takes physical strength, coordination, a little patience, and a well-developed sense of humor. When the warp is safely in place on the loom, weavers need to tie off each and every one of the warp threads.
Ask anyone at Barrydale Hand Weavers what they most enjoy about their job, and just about every time you’ll hear that it’s weaving. When they’re making their rugs and mats, they use hand shuttles. Watching a weaver passing the shuttle through the warp, then beating each textured weft yarn tightly into its position, is a serene experience.
The finished product is manually wound onto the rollers with every 30cm or so of weaving, and it’s also important to rewind the shuttles regularly.
The weavers are deeply proud of this craft, and take particular pride in performing this part of the process.
When the mat or rug has been cut from its loom, it’s essential that to tie its ends so that they don’t unravel. This task is performed by hand, then the tassels are hand-trimmed so that they’re all of equal length.
The time has come for the rug to be given a haircut! The weavers manually trim them by hand to remove any long tufts and create a smooth finished edge.
The final step in the process is shaking out the rug, dislodging loose fibers and producing a satisfying “snap” sound. The aim of the game is to make this noise as loud as possible. Then, it’s time to fold the finished product and pack it onto the shelves, marking the end of a job done entirely by people power – not a watt of electricity involved.
Text & Photos: Courtesy of Barrydale Hand Weavers
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