Despite the essential role weavers have in Ethiopian society, they are marginalized and suffer from prejudice and relative isolation in society. Most weavers have not had the opportunity to go to school, most live in poor conditions and have only worked in the informal market. Child labor and trafficking for work was common practice in weaving communities and still remains a problem in rural areas.
Ethiopian weaving uses the skills of at least three different artisans; a woman to spin the cotton into thread, a man to measure the threads for the warp and tie them onto the loom; a woman to prepare bobbins of thread to be woven and another man who will weave the textiles.
Ethiopian weavers use horizontal two-harness treadle looms with a maximum width of 80cm to hand weave cotton. Sabahar has been innovating the techniques, fibers used and technology in order to enable weavers to make a larger selection of products. We have introduced larger looms with flying shuttles, we have trained weavers to use eight-harness looms and taught them to weave with wool, linen and silk. These advancements have enabled us to master techniques that allow us to produce a variety of different textures, weights and designs.
By providing a market for beautiful hand woven Ethiopian textiles, we hope to showcase the talents of Ethiopian weavers to the world. Through innovation, we can expand their offerings from simple flat weaves to a variety of different textures, thus hoping to keep them relevant in the global market.
Sabahar now works with about 85 weavers; about 25 work in one of our two Addis Ababa workshops while another 60 work in their homes. We also buy products from independent weaving cooperatives in Addis Ababa, Arba Minch and Bahar Dahr.