There are many similarities between Ethiopian weaving techniques and those practiced in the west, especially in the preparation phase. The big difference between the two styles is in the design of the looms each uses. While western looms typically have four or more harnesses and treadles, allowing weavers to easily lift up various combinations of yarns on the warp to create intricate patterns, Ethiopian looms only have two harnesses. This means that in order to create a pattern the yarns need to be lifted manually with a stick in a technique that’s similar to what we call ‘double weave’ in the west.
Weavers use two different sets of sticks to create the various patterns. One set is kept at the back of the loom, opposite where the weaver sits. These sticks are used as placeholders, separating groups of yarns like a series of tabs in a file drawer. At the front of the loom, near the weaver, the artisan uses a pointed stick to pick up and place the various layers of yarns needed to make the design. More intricate designs require more sticks, more time and, of course, more skill.
Weaving is a craft that is mastered over a lifetime. And because of the differences in their looms, Ethiopian weavers often have to do much more manual work than weavers in the west. Bolé Road’s process can be even more challenging as we often introduce new and intricate designs that are outside our artisans’ traditional repertoires. New designs often take several rounds of work and rework to refine. It’s a true testament to the skill and professionalism of our weavers that each step of the process is carried out with precision and care, resulting in fabrics that we are proud to label Bolé Road Textiles.
Because of the nature of our process, we produce small batches in each of our runs. Therefore, each of our designs will come in limited quantity. The hand-weaving process also results in slight variations in color and execution that give our products a special one-of-a-kind character.