Every time I visit my childhood home in Moldova (Eastern Europe), I am welcomed by the sight of colorful rugs and wall hangings, my mother’s prized possessions and home décor that withstood the test of time and changing fashion trends. Once, an integral part of a young lady’s dowry, these rugs were also a testimony of skill, artistry and social status. A newly wedded woman would leave her parents’ home after the wedding day, bringing with her a wooden chest filled with handcrafted items: woven rugs and runners, embroidered wall hangings, runners, table linens. These now would be her prized possession, the ones she worked on for years, and some that she inherited from her mother, grandmother, or great grandmother.
Carpet weaving goes beyond its practical and aesthetic purpose. Weaving often called for team work, community involvement and collaboration.
Often times, during those long, dark winter evenings, folks would gather up in someone’s home for some sort of collective, combined crafting and fun parties, called “sezatori”. Singing, storytelling, laughing and joking would go hand in hand with the work of weaving, embroidering, yarn spinning. Viewed as an expression of creativity and identity marking, weaving was also considered the means for bringing together groups of different ages and socioeconomic backgrounds.
The carpet pattern, called “the flower” would be painstakingly hand drafted on graph sheets, copied and transferred dot by dot, color by color, somewhat resembling a large cross stitch pattern. The final design would be framed and hung on the carpet loom and followed with great care to produce the desired woven design.
Sheep wool spinning into yarn and dying it into vibrant colors was an art in itself. Only few folks in the community possessed its secrets, and they were highly respected and guarded.
In recent decades, with the advent of mechanized machinery, the art of hand weaving has seen a steep fading. Not an integral part of day to day life anymore, it has transmigrated into an art form and a prized national craft, recently included in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List. Efforts have been made in recent years to revive the tradition of weaving by encouraging youngsters to join different crafting clubs and schools.
For now, I sit here and marvel at this string of wool that has found place and life into a dream, a dream of preservation and hope.