Tassels and Braids
I had thought of closing this blog, and reopening somewhere else as a textile blog. I am not ready to do this yet. I have been going through some of the thousands of photographs in my files, and when I was busiest, I did not post. In fact, when I was busiest I was doing the most interesting things.
So - we will stroll a little through some Egyptian sites that were not effectively reported.
In the area of Cairo between Mohamed Ali Street and Port Said Street is an area of carved and gilded furniture. I had walked this area many times - it is fascinating to watch the stages in the making of these chairs. Many of the frames are brought in fully carved from Damietta, or Damyut as the locals often call it. They are stacked in the streets, in marvelous teetering piles and many degrees of intricacy. More about them in another blog.
It was on about my third visit there that I focused on a spinning wheel sitting outside a tiny shop - only about the size of a western toilet. I was puzzling over the thread stand near the wheel which looked full of silks - though was probably full of rayons and polyesters.
I photographed the wheel and tools, then a man walked out and sat down.
As I watched he started to spin a bi-coloured cord in maroon and cream.
His tools were laid out beside him and I love these iron scissors they all use. They are obviously sharp and I have collected a few pairs.
The spools for the wheel sat in a plastic bin.
I walked over, and looked through the door of the shop to see that it was packed tightly with tassels.
The walls were festooned. Great thick ropes of cords and tassels hung from every surface.
In the tiny room the sounds from the street were muffled by the thick insulation of foot-deep rayons. Then I realised I was hearing a rythmic clacketing from behind the wall. There was another tiny door in a side wall, and I had to turn sideways to squeeze through. Inside were about a dozen looms - some wide, some tiny, and there were long expanses of silky fringe hanging from hooks, obviously waiting to be trimmed.
All the men were weaving braids for use in upholstering chairs and couches. It was so logical to have them in this place where the streets were filled with people churning out chairs. We were fascinated by some of the loom weights - old bricks, bottles of water, old metal printing frames, rocks in a plastic bag - anything that was easy to find and which would add weight to the loom.
One man just knotted braided cords on to tassels to make huge majestic curtain loops. I know there is another name for thiese but it escapes me!
Outside in the street I suddenly started to see lots of other textile activity. Two young boys were spinning cords in a long stretch of a street, using a power drill with a hook instead of the usual drill bit. I did not photograph that - it was difficult as they moved to keep up with the cord as it spun and shortened.
Another pair had a more static set up. This is the boy on one end.
And this is on the other end.
And now a tantaliser! Next time I will show you some chairs, and this is just a taste.