Weaving Implements

” The most widespread loom used in lndonesia is a small portable unit that is placed on the ground or floor with the beam at the far end (the warp beam) firmly secured to a house post or a tree, or slipped into a heavy wooden frame. The weaver then sits down, her legs stretched out in front, under and parallel to the warp threads, and her feet pressed firmly against a board staked to the ground. She takes the breast beam in her lap and rests her back against a curved wooden or leather yoke that is tied to the breast beam by a string passing under her left and right arms and in this way becomes a part of the loom. When the weaver leans back, the warp is pulled taut. When she leans forward and lifts the heddle, the warp is relaxed and a gap is formed, the shed, through which she passes the weft. This loom is called ‘backstrap loom’ or ‘body-tension loom’; alat tenun gedog or gedogan in Bahasa lndonesia.


When warping a backstrap loom, the weaver may keep her ball of warp thread in a coconut shell. Frequently, another woman helps her lay out the warp. One sits near the breast beam and the other near the warp beam. They pass the ball of thread back and forth, winding it over and under the warp and breast beams. The container prevents unrolling and tangling, should the ball of thread be dropped.


Other weaving implements include devices that help spin fiber into thread or measure out spun thread. There are also beaters and smoothers, combs and clippers, dippers and daubers. Some are beautifully made of fine materials, but most are simply made of wood or bamboo. It is important to recognize the many complex skills a weaver brings to her task. It requires meticulous patience to weave a cloth that is even and flat, with a pattern fitting properly into the textile margins. lt also requires accuracy and mathematical ability to lay out warp and weft – or in the case of batik, to lay out a pattern – and knowledge of chemistry and a deep understanding of locally available materials when mixing dyes. Many weavers will not call these skills ‘math’ or ‘chemistry’ but say only that they are some of the skills a good weaver or batiker must master.”*


*Judi Achjadi, The Jakarta Textile Museum (Jakarta: Indonesian Heritage Society, 2004), 26-27.