The island of Sumba in Indonesia has a rich tradition of naturally dyed handwoven cloth. Much of the cloth is used for ceremonies, weddings, funerals and passed down through families for generations. Some designs have ritual significance, others tell a story or illustrate life on the island. Contemporary patterns are also being produced with geometric designs, often scattered with horses, chickens and sea creatures.
Floating weave or Songket
This style of weaving is called songket or floating weave, it is done on a backstrap loom that sits on the ground. Setting up the loom with the warp thread takes time and skill as one wrong thread will cause a fault throughout the entire piece.
Natural Dyeing Process
Beautiful soft tones as well as strong and vibrant colours are produced using only natural dyes. The process to produce strong colours that last is often a long one. It takes generations of local knowledge which is being lost with the popularity of chemical dyes.
The blue is made from indigo which is grown and harvested locally. It is first soaked in water mixed with lime powder. The lime reacts with the leaf and turns the water blue. It is fermented for weeks to ensure the colour is strong and will remain in the cloth. Thread is then soaked in the dye mix, beaten with a wooden mallet to send the colour to the centre of the thread, dried, then the process repeats numerous times depending on the desired colour.
Red, yellow, brown, green and black are produced with various roots and leaves, sometimes mixed together for varying colour tones.