Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tassels and Braids

A great deal has happened since I last posted. I am in Canberra, Australia and settling back into my home. We arrived to find our children had looked after our house impeccably while we were away. We bought too much in Cairo and my house seems to have shrunk - so it has been a struggle to get it all in. In fact, getting it all in has taken about the last six weeks.

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!


Trimming tassels

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.


Blogger Di said...

So glad to see you back blogging, Jenny. I'm glad you're going to keep up your delicious pieces on Cairo for a while. Love them!

1:13 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm really going to miss the day when you don't blog Cairo anymore.....I get excited every time you post something new! .......Melinda

9:16 pm  
Blogger Quilt Pixie said...

those tassels are stunning... I love the richness they inspire, the sense of majesty

10:37 pm  
Blogger Lynn Majidimehr said...

Since I have been following your blog for a while, the quilt with the Egyptian man that one Best of Show has the same feeling as the pictures that you post here. I think it is a wonderful quilt!

2:11 pm  
Blogger I need orange said...

I, too, am glad to see more here.

4:10 am  
Blogger 71square said...

Jenny, I check this blog almost every day in hopes you have updated it. It is the number one site for me. Hearing about your adventures, your life, in Egypt -- the country comes alive in your descriptions... Please, please don't close it. Couldn't you just add on?

4:23 am  
Anonymous Sue said...

Please please please continue to post your wonderful photographs! You capture the essence of what I love about Cairo.

5:31 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so pleased to see you back, as I too check almost every day. You describe it all so well, and your photos are wonderful! Thankyou, and do please keep it up!
Margaret in NZ

3:24 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful tassels. Thanks for all the pictures.

10:54 am  
Blogger Helen said...

REAL craftsmen at work. Isn't it strange how little value is given to these people who are the ones keeping cultures alive ? compared yo the adulation given to 'artists' churning out simplistic 3D 'stuff' that takes minimal effort to make.

8:16 am  
Blogger Liz said...

This little shop is fascinating. How wonderful that you got to see it and watch the men at work. I'm so glad you shared pictures with us. I love tassels of all kinds and these photos are SO delicious!

11:02 am  
Blogger Becky R said...

Jenny, thank you for sharing with us all. It has been a delicious treat to read your blog about your travels. Please feel free to continue as long as you want. I've so enjoyed all of photos too!
Becky R

1:43 pm  
Blogger Miss Canthus said...

I took similar pics of tassles in Morocco a year ago!

Love your blog!!

I hope you have your blog set to send you email notification of when someone leaves you a Comment, cause I have left a number of them on older posts.

11:05 am  
Anonymous vishav bhraman said...

Nice article..

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10:47 pm  

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