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x0x Handmade fabric traditions in the modern world

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  • Turkish Radio Hour
    [Read more about the region at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/holiday/destinations/turkey_fethiye/ http://www.fethiyelife.com/uzumlu.html ] x0x Handmade fabric
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 22, 2004
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      [Read more about the region at:
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/holiday/destinations/turkey_fethiye/
      http://www.fethiyelife.com/uzumlu.html ]

      x0x Handmade fabric traditions in the modern world

      By Karen Harvey Kucuk

      In the heart of the mountain region of Turkey's southwest coastal area
      in the MuGla municipality of MuGla, abundant in agricultural and
      archaeological riches, is a peaceful place where one can experience
      village life as it has been for centuries. Uzumlu village (Village of
      Grapes) is so called because of the prolific growth of grapes in a
      place where other fruits are difficult to cultivate because of the
      arid climate and high altitude. Uzumlu is about 40 kilometres from the
      largest town in the area, Fethiye, and attracts local attention not
      only for the character of the village itself, but because of its
      closeness to the important site of the beautiful Lycian ruins at
      Cadianda. Seeing the village for the first time with the eyes of a
      Londoner who has lived in this area for a number of years, the first
      thing which struck me was the traditional houses. The village has a
      lively centre, with 'kirathanes' (coffee shops), municipal buildings
      and a market on Fridays.

      The winding streets are lined with old whitewashed stone houses
      adorned with wooden 'cumba' balconies which overhang the street, and
      door and window frames painted rich Aegean blue or bright yellow,
      attractively weathered by wet winters and long, hot summers. The
      character of the village is, for me, defined not only by the
      simplicity and charm of its architecture. An intrinsic part of life in
      the village is the production of beautiful finely woven fabrics: the
      'dastar'. Most houses contain a full-size wooden loom (tezgah) and
      every other apparatus for transforming wool, cotton and silk into a
      variety of fine fabrics. Many of the looms have been handed down from
      generation to generation; from mother in law's mother in law to their
      current day incumbents over periods spanning up to 150 years. New
      'tezgah' are built to order by a carpenter in the village for around
      40 dollars apiece. There is even a small factory in the centre of the
      village which uses modern techniques to produce fabric. Dastar fabrics
      have a distinctive generic style, though each piece produced is
      completely unique.

      The fabric is generally made from cotton, wool or silk produced by
      traditional methods. Cotton is cultivated on the plains below the
      village, and once this is harvested it is factory processed, and often
      dyed a variety of colours, before it is spun by hand in Uzumlu to
      prepare it for the loom. Once the base cloth has been woven, in one
      colour, or checked or striped, and while it is still stretched on the
      loom, intricate regular patterns based on a square design are sewn by
      hand onto the cloth. These designs are generally based on traditional
      patterns but are just as likely to be concocted as the piece develops.

      This last stage in the process is particularly time consuming, since
      the designs are sewn in thread by thread and the number of stitches
      are carefully calculated - one stitch out, and the whole design is
      ruined. Silk based fabrics are a particular local speciality. Silk
      worms are bred in the village and it takes around 30.000 'kozas'
      (chrysalises) to produce 30 kilos of raw silk.

      Dastar has many uses: beautiful headscarves, curtains, bedcovers and
      even clothes (which are often sold to tourists visiting the village).

      Considering the fashionable status of natural look materials in
      tody'si booming interior design industry, there is most definitely a
      place in tody'si marketplace for such high quality, completely unique
      pieces of work. The women responsible for this art say that it is
      quite simply their way of life. They rise in the morning, and after
      attending to the needs of the family, sit down at the loom and spend
      the day weaving. It is a way of life, a way to fill time, but they now
      want to expand that into a way to earn money. "Many of the
      'handcrafted' fabrics sold locally are imported to the area from big
      fabric manufacturers to be sold at very low prices. Surely our work is
      worth more than that?" they say. Considering that a table cloth
      measuring 80 cm square can take up to three days to complete, they
      have a good point.

      The village is slowly changing: the area close to Fethiye is becoming
      increasingly popular as a tourist destination, and visitors to the
      village come by truck safari, or on tours designed to demonstrate the
      traditional village way of life. As a village, the inhabitants greet
      with open arms every opportunity to update their lives. A number of
      European families now own houses in and around the village, and the
      changes they bring with them are welcomed by the women with whom I
      spoke. The new inhabitants, however, want the village to stay the way
      it is, valuing the peace and traditional atmosphere so different from
      their native homes.

      The question now is how the village can adapt to these changes without
      losing that quality; ensuring that the 'weft' of modern culture, as it
      is woven into the 'warp', the intrinsic character of the place,
      complements and preserves those traditions which make life in this
      part of the world so rich and colorful.

      * Karen Harvey Kucuk is a freelance writer
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