Construction manner of woven articles
Sheep wool was processed at home by women alone. In order for the wool to become yarn a specific process is required, the talasiourgia that includes: washing, combing, carding and spinning.
The washing and scalding of the wool were based on processes handed down from one generation to the next; it is experiential knowledge, without original actions in order to ensure the success of the treatment.
The washing and scalding of the wool takes place in a large cauldron, which is filled halfway with water. When it begins to boil, a quantity of wool is thrown in, about two or three bundles. They steep it in hot water for about 30 minutes in water that is not boiling. It is then rinsed with plenty of water and spread in the shade to drain and dry on a wooden rack. The wool must pass quickly from the hot water to cold water in order to avoid yellowing of the white wool. At regular intervals the wool is turned in order to dry on all sides. The washing water, the pinos (or otherwise alika, alka, malloroupos, saria or sera) is kept because it is re-used in the dyeing of the wool. The washing and scalding must be completed by the beginning of autumn.
During the scalding the wool loses half its weight. This is calculated each time in the quantity of wool that is immersed so the final washed wool is sufficient for the needs.
The combing is next. Once the wool dries, it is usually combed by hand in order to rid it of foreign objects that it may contain e.g. barnacles, thorns, straw, etc.
Following the combing is the sorting of the wool. During the process of sorting the wool is separated by kind and according to the programmed needs of production. Depending on the object for which it is intended the respective wool is chosen. Knowledge of the needs is very basic for the sorting. Types of wool and materials are predetermined sizes and the categories of quality are connected to their functionality. During the sorting the weight is estimated, the appropriateness, availability and all relative elements for the utilitarian and social function of the woven article. For greater accuracy in measurement, the wool is measured with the help of the steelyard and scale.
The first separation is done between the sheep wool and the goat wool. Following is the separation according to type of sheep, white, black and lamb. A criterion for the assessment of the quality of the wool is the age of animal. The best quality wool comes from animals that are up to three years old as well as from the lambs. Good quality wool also comes from two year old lambs and female lambs, followed by wool from sterile sheep that produce long, strong wool. The first wool after birth is held in low esteem and is used in non-visible surfaces.
It is worth making separate mention of Metsovo, one of the most significant weaving centers, if not the most significant, where the sheep wool is called lana di sti oaie and goat wool is called caprina, the white wool is called alba, the black is called laie, lambs wool is called gnitsa, white wool with black hair is called saina, the first wool after birth is called saitallia.
A basic separation is also done based on texture and size of the wool. It is separated into soft (rouda), rough (ayra), long (lounga) and short (skourta).
The black wool is collected separately and destined for the weaving of specific cloth for everyday male clothing and material for horses.
The wool is then carded. With this process the fibers are separated and settled parallel in order to facilitate spinning. The carders are by rule two kinds: thick and thin. They are wooden bases with combs (teeth), which are used opposite each other. For long-hair wool thick carders are used, which have long and relatively few teeth. The carding is done in the following manner: the bottom card is placed on the knees of the woman with the teeth facing up and the handle to the side. A small quantity of wool is placed on the teeth and with the other card that has the teeth facing down we pull the wool across, essentially combing it so the fibers are parallel. The wool from thick cards is long-fibered, good quality appropriate for warp, jib and very thin woof. The long-fiber carded wool is collected on a round bolt, the touloupa, and it is then ready to be spun.
Short-hair wools pass through the lanarakia, which are just like thick cards only they have many, thin and short teeth. This wool may be used only on a warp because it is short-haired.
In Metsovo the carding was done with the combs (Kiaptcagni) that were replaced by the carding machine. The combs were a wooden apparatus made of a wooden plank, on the front side of which there was a cube-shaped apparatus open toward the side of the woman using it. This cubed surface is covered with needles 4 cm. in length, while a similar plank with a handle is brought on top of the other. The wool is placed between them and with successive pulls the wool is made uniform, with parallel fibers. By using the combs for the carding the long wool is pulled first. The thin fibers of the long-haired wool are called finou and make the best quality yarn.
Following the carding is the spinning, a process that transforms the wool to yarn. For the spinning the distaff is used which is supported on the hip of the spinner or under the armpit. Except for the distaff the tsikriki is also encountered. The tsikriki is a wooden tool whose use was generalized in the 19th century and replaced the horizontal spinning manner of the distaff. It is a simple type of cylinder with a groove where the crossed yarn is wound.
The woman spinning pulls a few fibers of the wool, twists it with her fingers and ties the end of it on the spindle, making a loop on the top portion of the spindle where the koka is located. Turning the spindle like a top from left to right, when the spindle is so full as to make its turning difficult, they remove the loop from the koka, the spun yarn is wound on the spindle and they make another loop. The wool is spun clockwise and is called right or Ζ.
For short-hair wool the drouga is used, which the spinner holds in her hand and turns it from right to right. The distance the arm reaches in one spread is called aplosia (reach). After every reach the yarn is collected on the drouga. The wool is spun counter-clockwise and is called left or S.
During the spinning yarns are used with different twists on the warp and the woof because in this manner the woven material swells, becomes more durable and fluffier.
Another spinning manner is with the sviga. The wool is tied to the bottom of the spindle, the sviga or the plano. The bolt of wool is placed on the spinners lap. The wool is tied at the beginning with a loop on the spindle. The wheel is spun with the right hand while the left hand controls the feeding of the yarn that is twisted horizontally. Two yarns may be also spun together using the sviga.
Another important animal raw material is silk. It comes from the cocoons of silkworms, which are cultivated with the supervision of the women. It is work that requires constant monitoring, special knowledge and experience. The seed of the silkworm hatches in the beginning of summer. When the seed opens and the worm comes out they place it on mulberry leaves upon which it feeds. After the various stages the silkworm is able to climb the branches in order to spin its cocoon. The cycle lasts 30-35 days. When the worms have finished spinning the cocoons they are collected, the larger ones are separated in order to keep the seed. The remaining cocoons are placed in the sun or dried with a special process in order for the worm to die that is inside so it does not pierce the cocoon. The best silk yarn comes from these un-pierced cocoons. Each cocoon produces from 500 to 1000 m. of fiber. In order to make the silk yarn many fibers are twisted together usually more than 10. A secondary quality of silk, thick and uneven, is the koukoulariko that comes from defective cocoons that have been pierced. The colour of silk fiber varies; it is white, yellow or golden depending on the cocoons. Regardless of the colour or quality silk fiber is more durable to stretching during the weaving on the loom. In Ipirus silk cultivations are referenced in the western villages of Zagori. Silk was also an imported material for the affluent classes. After the completion of the transformation of the raw material to yarn the dyeing of the yarns followed. Once the types of yarns were separated and they had defined what they would be used for, they were gently tied into skeins (bundles) in a manner that they could easily find their ends. In the case of wool the dyeing took place in a cauldron into which the yarn was slowly immersed in hot water.
By rule the dyes were vegetable dyes: dried mulberry leaves, pomegranate peels gave yellow gold, onion skins gave a pinkish white, pine logs gave a cinnamon colour, fresh mulberry leaves for a light olive green colour, walnut skins for light brown, dried pods for dark brown, azure from light turquoise to dark blue came from the saria, namely the water where the wool had been scalded, madder for red, kremezi for dark red. Alum is the common setter of the colours. The tinning of the cauldron contributes to the vibrancy of the colours. Since World War II and after chemical dyes began to be widely used. An especially important chemical dye was loulaki (indigo) that began to be used in Greece after 1900. Yet with the vegetable dyes an unbelievable variety of colours was achieved, with warm and soft hues that chemical dyes could not produce. Finally vegetable dyes were more durable.
Following the sinking of the yarn in the dye the yarn is rinsed well and hung on ropes in order to dry. The treatment must be completed before winter, when everything must be ready in order for the loom to begin its work.