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History of Syria

General information

Damascus Ma'loula


Homs Palmyra

Hama Apamea

Sweida shahba

Daraa Bosra

Latakia Ugarit

Tartous Amrit

Deir Ezzor Mari








The production of fabrics

 The twister

 The making of a fabric generally beginning with the spinning

(wool, cotton) or reeling (fine silk) of the fiber. In the cities the processing today starts with the twister (al-fattal). Because of the large supplies of factory-made yams, the twister in Syria today has hardly any commissions, so he is forced to take on a second skill, that of a warp- layer (al-musaddi), as well.

The work of a fattal was particularly important for the twisting of tine silks to produce the traditional silk weaves, such as ikat, qutni., damask and brocade.

For twisting and warp-laying a fa.ttal-musad.di needs a drive wheel (dulab) and spools. Today these are modern factory spools, with and without yarn. Nowadays the traditional kufiya used in the past is hardly ever used, since the yarn arrives in the workshop already on a handy spool. The kufiya used to be an indispensable piece of the twister's equipment in the time when the yarn did not come from the factory but in skeins directly from the spinners. The skeins could easily be placed over the kufiya, unwound, twisted and wound up again.

After the twisting the laying of the warp begins.


The warp-layer (al-musaddi)


The work of a musaddi includes the dividing up of the warp threads into the heddle warps and shed stick warps, the making of the crossing between these, the counting of the warp threads and the measuring of the length of warp desired (e.g. 260 metres).

For these tasks the warp-layer uses two pieces of equip­ment.

As soon as the musaddi has finished his work the hanks of yarn are sent to the ikateur (rabbat), the dyer (sabbag) or straight to the leash- threader {mulgi}, depending on the what they are to be used for.


The ikateur (arrabbat)


If the thread is to be used for ikat fabrics the rabbat begins by tying it to form the particular patterns. A number of skeins, which are not intended for ikat, are dyed before­hand.for ikat patterns the undyed skeins of thread are stretched out (along a garden wall, for example) and then tied at particular places. When all the skeins have been bound the are sent to the dyer. They are dyed as many times as there are colors required for the ikat pattern (e.g. red, yellow, blue). When the tying and dyeing are finished the skeins are dipped in starch and then stretched out to dry. The skeins are lined up, for the sets to be counted the damaged fibers to be bound and repaired. When the skeins are finally repaired and dried, they are wound up according to the patterns (centre or side panels of the fabric to be woven) meter by meter into skeins and taken to the work­shop of the leash-threader {mulqi}.


The leash-threader (al-malqi)

The mulqfs task is to thread the individual warp threads through the leashes of the loom shafts and the reed holes of the comb. He does this not only for ikat weavers but for all other fabrics made on hand-looms of all constructions. His work demands a very special sensitivity, especially where ikat fabrics are concerned. As soon as he has the formation of the pattern clearly in his mind he spreads the skeins with the ikat patterns out on the ground and arranges them in the order of the pattern to appear on the finished cloth. The number of shafts varies from four to twelve, depending on the weave and the pattern of the fabric. To draw the warp threads through the leashes the mulqi requires one assis­tant.

They sit opposite each other with the suspended heddle rods (four for plain weave) fixed between them and the warp threads ready in separate sets. The mulqi opens the leashes and takes the thread held out to him by his assistant. He runs the thread through for about 20 cm and then lets go of the two leashes. He repeats this procedure until all the warps are threaded through the leashes. (For a bath cloth approximately 1.16 meters wide, 2800 warp threads are needed.) When the warp threads have been drawn through the shafts, the same method is used to run the threads through the reed holes of the metal comb. The comb takes the place of the shafts and is secured. To pass the threads through the reed holes of the comb the leash-threader now uses a notched knife. The assistant takes the first thread and places it on the notch of the knife which the mulqi t\\en puts it through the reed hole. In this way all the warp threads are threaded through the comb in the correct order, and the leash-threader's task is done.

After the removal of the leash shafts from the comb, the whole ensemble (hanks of warp thread, threaded heddle rods and comb) is taken to the weaver.


The weaver

In Syria today various sorts of hand looms are still in use. For weaving ikat fabrics in silk and artificial silk the shaft loom (without punched cards) is used. Wool and cotton are often woven on a pit loom.

Many old Syrian shaft looms have been improved by the addition of modern equipment, particularly in Damascus, but to a lesser extent in Aleppo, Homs and Hama, on which silk and artificial silk are woven into damasks and brocades or other fabrics. They have been fitted with Jacquard machines and fast-shuttle device.

The basic framework for all sorts of looms (shaft loom, pit loom, hybrid loom, draw loom or Jacquard loom) is always in principle the same, apart from some deviations and modernizations.

It consists of four upright posts joined together. At the back is the warp beam on which the warp threads are wound. From here they run through leashes which are attached to two pieces of wood and form a shaft. After this they pass through the weaving comb and are tied to the cloth beam at the front. The weaver sits on a bench or a board in front and, by working the pedals which are connected with the shafts, forms the shed he requires, passes the shuttle through and beats in the weft thread firmly into the woven fabric with the weaving comb which hangs in a slay in the basic framework.


The shaft loom

After the hank of warp threads, with the shafts and comb, has been taken from the mulqi (leash threader) to the weaver (annawwal), the first thing he does is to insert the comb into the swing drawer and stretch out the warp threads attached to the breast beam. When the sley and breast beam are ready for use, the shafts with pedals attached are suspended from the frame. It takes five or six hours for the nawwalto do this. The more complicated the pattern, the more shafts with pedals are included.

To do the weaving the weaver sits on a board placed so that when his legs are almost extended they reach the pedals. This raised position gives him a good view of the whole loom.

Today the shaft loom is often equipped with a fast-shuttle device. The shuttle (makkuk) with the weft thread is hastened on its course back and forth by pulling on a handle.

As he weaves the nawwdl operates first one pedal so that the shaft to which it is joined is lowered and the other shafts are raised and form a shed. By pulling the handle he shoots the weft thread across and then beats it into the woven fabric with the sley. If the weaver wants to weave in a smaller pattern or his name, he uses a smaller shuttle with a different coloured thread and draws the weft through the newly formed shed only as far as the width of the the pattern or script. The cross- patterning is only possible with plain weave; there is no point in doing it with atlas weave since the weft threads are completely concealed by the warp threads.


Pit loom

This works on exactly the same principle as the shaft loom. except that the warn is not stretched out so far and runs horizontal only for a short distance before turning backwards and upwards 120 degrees. This means that it takes up less room. Breast beam, sley, framework and pedals are constructed in a similar way to the shaft loom, but are smaller. The warp threads run from the breast beam almost horizontally to the first roller. Passing beneath tills they then turn diagonally backwards and upwards for two or three metres and round another roller. They are weighted down so that they hang vertically behind the back of the weaver.

The weaver at the pit loom sits on a board at ground level in front of the breast beam. The space for the pedals is ,a pit.

I This loom is used especially to weave carpets (flat r weave), small fancy kerchiefs made of wool, cotton or mixtures, but larger cloths made of silk or artificial silk can also be woven on it. Nowadays the pit loom, too, often has a fast-shuttle attachment, though tins is not used for particularly small patterns and partial patterns, where frequent changing of the weft thread is necessary, in which case a number of small hand shuttles are used.


From draw loom to Jacquard machine

The draw loom was widely used for weaving compli­cated patterns (damask, brocade) until the invention of the Jacquard machine (by J.M. Jacquard, 1752-1834) in the nineteenth century.

The weaver formed the shed for the fabric base with pedals and shafts, while an assistant placed in the "figure or drawing area" high above on the loom created the sheds for the motifs in die pattern by pulling up groups of cords with the corresponding warp threads suspended from them. (This process is now accomplished in many looms by means of punched cards). Moreover the warp threads were not threaded on shafts but in individual leashes each with a little rod weight below, threaded through a horizontal board with holes carefully made in it and carried up to the drawing arrangement above.

The Jacquard machine was devised to control the warp threads drawn through the leashes, each leash having a platine (weight) attached. The size of the patterned surface depends on the number ofplatincs (there can be more than 800). The platines s.re controlled by means of series of cards attached together, which are punched with holes corre­sponding to the pattern, or else by "endless" bands made of paper or plastic.

Damasks and brocades are produced on ^ looms equipped in this way. A genuine damask (usually silk) has an even alternation of warp and weft atlas, which gives the fabric its characteristic shiny quality.

Brocade is a patterned, damask-like fabric made of natural or artificial silk with metal threads woven in. There are also brocades made entirely from gold or silver threads.

Brocade threads usually have a cotton or linen core round which metal threads (lame) are spun. Today special threads, such as lurex, which do not oxidize, are mainly used.



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Damascene brocade. Damascene damask

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