Why handwoven?

Posted by on Nov 02, 2013 .

Silk Chassis specialises in handwoven textiles of natural fibres. Why? In cultures and countries where it is easy to pop into a shop and buy a synthetic scarf, with a printed pattern, made in China, India or Lithuania, for under £15, it’s a fair question.

Oddly perhaps, it’s not easy or quick to answer satisfactorily. Here I should thank  Gillow and  Sentance for their illuminating book, World Textiles.

The long history of textiles is a fabulous story, played out in every culture and interwoven into the fabric of human life. Yes, this history is also tailormade for puns and wordplay! That in itself is revealing.

Human beings have always needed protection from the climate and weather. 10,000 years ago people wore hides sewn together with needles made from animal bone. Over the centuries, mankind learnt how to interlace various fibres – from animals and plants – to create fabrics.

The invention of the spinning wheel was a step change, enabling the creation of yarn from fibres such as silk, cotton, linen and wool, which we are familiar with today. In ancient Egyptian tomb paintings people are shown spinning and weaving.

Distinctive clothing and textiles emerged from techniques designed for local materials, combined with cultural values and climatic needs. Put simply, eskimos don’t wear bikinis. Hence the incredible diversity of traditional dress worldwide.

That is part of the fascination of handmade textiles – they embody the traditions, beliefs, aesthetics and aspirations of people and communities.

‘Handmade', ‘hand-crafted’ or ‘handworked’ textiles can mean many things and embrace various techniques – including, for example, weaving, painting, printing, appliqué and embroidery.

Silk Chassis’ current focus is on high-quality handweaving because – to return to the initial question – these scarves and shawls are beautiful, they embody the weaver’s skill and care, they sustain traditions and livelihoods, and each is a unique creation.  

As part of our interest in and commitment to handweaving, Silk Chassis will explain the different techniques, people and origins of our range, while continuing to seek the best scarves and shawls from India, Laos and beyond.

Next post: how to handweave a scarf (don’t worry, just for your information!)