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Our clothes are made fully by hand by traditional weavers who are called 'Shemane'. This art of weaving is hundreds years old. Following is an excerpt from Professor Richard Pankhurst's paper on traditonal Ethiopian weaving technology.

The Traditional Ethiopian Loom

Two stakes perhaps as high as a man would be struck in the ground a metre and a half or so apart and would be kept firm by the attachment of a third piece of wood or pole which would be tied to the top of the two vertical posts thus joining them together. Towards each end of the horizontal pole a string made of wool was lowered to subtend a thin piece of wood, perhaps a span long. which served as a kind of balance from each end of which other strings were lowered to hold a couple of weaver's reeds or combs. These latter were made of a couple of long thin horizontal pieces of wood or cane joined together by innumerable strings between which the weft passed.

Cotton Textiles

The production of cotton textiles was carried out in all parts of the country. Gondar, Adwa, Ankobar and Harar were, however, famous for particularly fine cloth.

Ruppell stated in the early nineteenth century that Gondar was renowned for its cloth throughout Ethiopia, particularly for a silky thread which was used in the embroidery of women's clothes and for the hats worn by Muslims, while Combes and Tamisier noticed that the city produced the finest woven material.

Adwa, observed the British traveller Henry Salt, was a great centre for both coarse and fine cloth, a statement echoed by the German observer Gerhard Rohlfs in the latter part of the century.

The coarse cloth of Adwa, according to Salt, was "unrivalled in any other part of the country" and was made out of cotton imported via Massawa, while the finer material which was made from cotton grown on the low lands bordering on the Takaze River was thought "little inferior" to that of Gondar. Combes and Tamisier assert that the weavers employed by Sahla Sellassie in Shawa rivaled those of Gondar.

Further to the East, the city of Harar was also renowned for the manufacture of textiles. The English traveller Richard Burton in the middle of the century declared that the robes and sashes of Harar were "considered equal to the celebrated cloths of Shoa," and, being hand woven, far surpassed "the rapid produce of European manufactories in beauty and durability as the perfect hand of man excels the finest machinery.


Photos above: Indrias Getachew. Text: Traditional Ethiopian Weaving Technology - and the Advent of Foreign Machine-made Imports by Professor Richard Pankhurst - by Safari Ethiopian Store in Los Angeles
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Please Note: as these items are handmade items, there may be slight variations in size & specific design availability.