Spinning and weaving are tasks that all women until recently used to learn, and many still do. They spin thread by hand, usually out of wool shorn from their own sheep, or hemp grown in their own gardens. A weaver sits on the ground to weave on a backstrap loom pegged into the ground in front of her feet, supporting the loom with a strap around her waist. She passes the woof yarn with the shuttle back and forth from left to right with both hands, and after each pass pulls hard with the wooden batten to pack the woof tightly. Nuosu women produce both a plain weave and a twill fabric. It takes a full day for a skilled weaver to make a single strip of cloth. Backstrap-woven cloth is a foot wide or less, so many strips must be sewn together to make a skirt or vala fringed cape.
Felting is a specialized task performed by men only. For felting one needs to choose a windless, auspicious day, and first rip the wool apart, and spread it out on the bamboo strip mat, according to the desired size, shape, and thickness, all the while beating it into wadding with the fluffing bow. After this, the wadding is spread out evenly on the bamboo mat and sprinkled with a little hot water (fig 3.6), and the mat is rolled up into a cylinder. Two bamboo poles are inserted in the middle, and pulled by two people in opposite directions. When it is pulled tight, three muscular young men stand with one foot on the ground and use the other foot to roll the bamboo mat cylinder back and forth, pressing the wool inside the mat and causing it to stick together into felt. .
"Mountain Patterns" by Stevan Harrell, Bamo Qubumo, and Ma Erzi. 2000. Fig 3.4 - 3.5 pg.18.
Back to Top