The weavers

Susan of Erie Spirit read that Buton Island is famous for its traditional weaving so a few of us women arranged for a car and driver to take us to one of the villages known for the quality of their work. It would be a daylong jaunt and we looked forward to getting away from the crowds gathering for the coming festival.

As we drove along the cliff overlooking the sea we passed fish traps that extended well out into the bay.

On the way to the village we stopped to admire a beautiful river and a local school boy jumped in the water I’m pretty sure just so he could be in our photos.

The village was tidier and cleaner than anywhere we’ve been in Indonesia. Turns out there’s a government program that rewards communities who get control over their waste stream and keep their buildings in good nick. This is one of the winners. I hope more places follow suit, because sadly, most of Indonesia is losing the Battle of Single Use Plastic.

We may have mentioned once or twice that Indonesia is hot. Really hot. So the wise women do their weaving under their houses where the shade makes a big difference and there’s no barrier to whatever breeze there is.

They do sometimes still spin their own yarn but more often these days they can buy it cheaper, so the finished product is not quite as authentically produced with vegetable dyed home spun as earlier times. An older woman was happy to demonstrate her spinning technique but we got the sense the younger ones aren’t really learning this part of the process.

The colors and patterns are traditional, and most pieces are made to order. It takes a week to set up the loom and up to a month to weave the full length of what almost always becomes the traditional wide sewn tube of yardage worn as a sarong.

The work is done on a backstrap loom, which means the width is limited by the arm span of the weaver. The plaid designs are only worn by men, the stripes by women. We learned later this rule is inviolable, when one of our number chose a pattern meant for the opposite sex and was promptly corrected and steered toward the appropriate choices.

A local school teacher heard the buzz created by our visit and was happy to model some of the finished products. There wasn’t really anything for sale since it’s all to order.

As always, our presence attracted an audience.

When we left the village we asked our driver if we could visit a floating village. Within a few miles we arrived at this settlement attached to land only by a narrow causeway.

I guess you wouldn’t really call it a floating village because the buildings rest on pilings but watching people deftly scramble from house to walkway on narrow and deeply flexing boards you have to remind yourself that these are teetotaling Muslims who won’t be overdoing it on Saturday night and end up in the drink on the way home.

Our final stop of the day was a quiet watering hole used by local women for washing laundry but which suited us perfectly for kicking off the shoes and cooling our feet before the final drive back to the anchorage.

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  1. nancy smith

    so enjoyed that. might be because you featured women and I once did weaving..Ta Da!

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