Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Spinning Wool in Segou, Mali

Here is a video of Djenaba, a young Malian spinner test-driving the Babe Pinkie. (Loading may take a minute. Please be patient.) This is one of the spinning wheels that I handed to Youssouf in Marrakesh in June. On September 14, it finally made made it to Segou, three hours away from the Malian capital of Bamako.

Also delivered to the carpet-weaving cooperative called Tapiserrie Nieleni, a multi-functional women's cooperative where they process wool from fleece to carpet, were charkhas: the modern kind made of PVC by Nels Wiberg, and the Indian-style one in a wooden box called book charkha.The book charkha was fascinating to the Malians, especially when they saw that the little box also contained a skeiner. Notice how enthralled Djenaba's fellow spinner was.

When I consulted Djenaba about her preference, she patted the Pinkie. Djenaba was taught to spin with a wheel by a German volunteer. In fact, the Malians had fashioned one spinning wheel with bicycle parts. Below, Youssouf checks to see if the metal wheel is for real, while Ina, the cooperative's adviser, looks on.

Ina said that when they use yarn spun with a spindle, the resulting carpet is very heavy and expensive to ship. With the new wheels, they will be able to create carpets of finer yarn and those would be less expensive to ship and would mean more income for the women.This is a sample of the cooperative's products. I would have bought this one, but it was so heavy.

A weaver working on a carpet (above) and wool being spun on a spindle (below). There are 65 women working in this cooperative, from fleece-sorting to weaving. Twenty of them are spinners and almost all of them use spindles.

A generous hank of superbulky being taken off to the loom.

To be continued...