The Barrydale Hand Weavers base material is locally grown cotton, spun here in South Africa and used in its natural state or dyed to colour specifications.
The secret to our success and an integral part of our process, our warp is a lengthwise yarn on our wide loom, comprising more 1300 individual threads all tensioned with great precision.
Getting the warp onto the loom is a team effort, taking physical strength, coordination and a good deal of the camaraderie that fuels our creative efforts – we quite literally couldn’t do it without each other.
Knotting is a vital step in the process that creates our finished product. It’s also the most tedious of the tasks as each and every thread must be knotted meticulously to sustain that perfect tension..
When the warping and knotting is complete, it’s time to wind the bobbins. This marks the first time in the process that electricity comes into play – but we can wind them manually if necessary.
Here begins the part of the process that we live for: hand weaving. We use a flying shuttle, which carries weft threads over and under the warp in perfect unity. It’s thrown more than seventy times for each 10cm of fabric produced, so a beach towel, for example, is the result of more than 1400 throws of the shuttle. With each of those throws, each weft yarn is beat with consistent tension by the weaver’s hand.
When the work of throwing shuttles, swinging the beat and working the treadles with one’s feet is done, the job is far from over: we manually wind the finished fabric onto rollers for every 30cm of weaving, and ensure that the bobbin is changed for every coloured line.
This is our passion, and the craft of which we’re proud. We think that the rhythm of a flying shuttle at work is the sweetest sound in our Weavery.
When the fabric has been cut from the loom rollers, it’s ready to be cut to size and sewn into shape, becoming our products. Each item is then pre-shrunk with a hot wash and tumble-dry, and ironed. A process of meticulous quality control commences: we pride ourselves on our finished products, so we examine each one to ensure that what you receive is perfect.
Barrydale Hand Weavers is, as our name suggests, at its core about the craftspeople behind the products. Our team has been growing with the business for years, developing their skills and creating textiles we’re proud to share with our customers.
The base material of mats and rugs are the edges of cotton fabric, cut from industrial looms. They’re “waste” – a by-product of their weaving patterns – but for us, this raw material is an invaluable ingredient for upcycling. The material is delivered to us on pallets, in large bails, or in bags and when it’s received it’s usually natural colour, and sometimes coloured: we don’t get to specify, as this is whatever the industrial fabric manufacturers don’t want.
Now that we’re in possession of this waste that’s about to become something wonderful, we’ve got to sort it: it’s separated by hand to create balls with a similar texture or colour. This is a labour-intensive job, and it’s widely agreed that this is the least enjoyable task in the process of creating our mats and rugs.
The warp for our mats and rugs is polyester to ensure durability and hold everything together
As is the case when we’re producing our fabrics, getting the warp onto the loom is a loud, boisterous team effort, that takes physical strength, coordination, a little patience, and a well-developed sense of humour. When the warp is safely in place on the loom, we need to tie off each and every one of the warp threads.
Ask any of our Weavers what they most enjoy about their job, and just about every time you’ll hear that it’s weaving. When we’re making our rugs and mats we use hand shuttles, so it’s a much quieter process than producing our fabrics – and because of the thickness of the weft yarn, there are a lot less passes of the shuttle for rugs and mats than are needed for fabrics.
Watching a weaver passing the shuttle through the warp, then beating each textured weft yarn tightly into its position, is a serene experience.
We create patterns using different colours, and this is where the unique look of each product comes in: because we don’t specify what colours are supplied to us, we never know what’s coming next, and the result is as beautiful as it is surprising. The finished product is manually wound onto the rollers with every 30cm or so of weaving, and it’s also important to rewind our shuttles regularly.
We’re deeply proud of this craft, and take particular pride in performing this part of the process.
When we’ve cut the mat or rug from its loom, it’s essential that we tie its ends so that they don’t unravel. This task is performed by hand, then the tassels are hand-trimmed so that they’re all of equal length.
The time’s come for the mat or rug to be given a haircut! We manually trim them by hand to remove any long tufts, and to ensure that we create a finished edge that isn’t fluffy.
The final step in our process is shaking out the mat or rug, dislodging loose fibres and producing a satisfying “snap!” sound. The aim of the game is to make this noise as loud as possible. Then, it’s time to fold the finished product and pack it onto our shelves, marking the end of a job done entirely by people power – not a watt of electricity involved.