1. Melikas / Separating the Yarns
This is one of the preparations stages that is often no longer practices since imported yarns are tangle-free. Traditionally, weavers would separate the raw yarns into small bundles (known as hanks) of around 30 threads and then soak them overnight in a solution made of the ashes of burnt coconut palm fronds, the skins of durian fruits, or in an alum solution. Silk from China in its raw state was harsh and yellowish in colour: these solutions acted as flocculants whereby starch and dirt were off the yarn and either sank to the bottom or floated to the top of the solution where it could be skimmed off. The prepared yarns were then rinsed with water in a final cleaning and then dried. The result was a soft and silky thread that was white and now ready for dyeing.
2. Mewarna / Dyeing
(a) Natural Dyes
Many vegetables and minerals have been used to produce beautiful dyes: kesumba or safflower (Carthanous tinctorius), and kunyit (turmeric, Cucurma longa) both produce yellow colours; katapang leaves (Tropical almond, Terminalia cattapa) produce a deep. Rich brown colour, and indigo, a deep blue-black, is produced from the leaves of the Indigofera and Marsdenia species of plants. Producing natural dyes requires large quantities of organic matter: the plant stuff is cleaned, boiled and the liquid filtered to remove dirt and impurities. The hanks of yarns are soaked first in water and then dipped until the desired colour is achieved. The blending of dyes and the colour intensity depends on the length of time the yarns remain in the dye bath: the longer they remain in the dye bath, the stronger the colour. An experienced and skillful dryer can produce a myriad of tones. The coloured yarns are then strained and soaked in chalk water to fix the dye before being repeatedly rinsed until the water runs clear. Next the yarns are immersed in lime water to remove odours, strained and then hung on a horizontal bamboo pole and rotated regularly to allow them to dry in the shade. This ensures that the yarn doesn’t fade in bright sunlight and that it is completely shrunk, so that no further shrinkage occurs after it has been woven.
(b) Syntetic Dyes
Today, reactive dyeing is the most important method for the coloration of cellulosic fibres because they have a good fastness of colour due to the bonding process that occurs during dyeing. Remazol dyes are especially popular with craftspeople as they come in a range of colours and are used cold to hot (30-60C). The dye is prepared in a container (in the past, when weavers in Pahang began using crystal dyes they were dissolved in boiling water in a kuali (wok) over a small open wood fire) by heating the water and adding the dye and mixing until it becomes thick. The dye mix can then be added to clean water in varying proportions to produce different shades. The yarns, which have been pre- soaked in clean water are rinsed, and strained before being lowered into the dye bath. The hanks of yarn are rotated from time to time to ensure the take up of dye is evenly distributed so the colour of the dyed yarns is consistent throughout the hank. The hank of yarn are usually left in the dye solution for about half and hour after which Glauber’s Salts (hydrate of sodium sulphate) is added and the hanks are immersed again for a further 30 minutes. Discovered in 1625 in Austrian spring water by a German chemist Johan Rudolf Glauber (1604-1670) who called them sal mirabilis (miraculous salts), they are used in dyeing for levelling-reducing negative charges on fibres so that dyes can penetrate evenly. To fix the dye, soda ash is then added to the mix and the whole mix is heated for half and hour. Gradually the dye is brought to the boil and the yarns immersed for another 30 minutes to ensure the colour remains fast. The yarns are then strained and rinsed in clear water until it runs clear before being rinsed in fabric softener to remove odours and any salt residue that may be on the yarn. The hanks of dyed yarn are then left to dry naturally.
3. Menerau / Spooling the Thread
After the hanks of dyed yarn are dry, they are wound onto small sticks about 5 inches long called peleting (bobbins) to form spools. The meneru process is done using two spooling wheels called a rahat and a darwin (or duan ruing). In general the darwin has four strings connecting the ends of two interlocking wooden cross pieces which are opened to form a frame on which a hank of yarn is placed. The yarn form a spool of yarn. The peleting (bobbins) is connected to the rahat (winded), a wooden wheel with a tali rahat (drive belt) made of sturdy thread. This thread passes around the axle of the rahat and over a wheel with a handle called the tangan rahat. The ends of the yarn is wound onto the peleting (bobbin) that is mounted onto a projecting metal axle called the mata rahat. The winding of the thread onto a spool happens when the handle on the rahat is turned. This then turns the mata rahat which unwinds the yarn from the rotating darwin and winds it onto the peleting (bobbin).
4. Mengani / Fixing the Thread onto the Wrap
The next process is to prepare the textiles’ warp threads: this is done using an alat anian (warping frame). The warping frame is about six feet long on which there are a number of pegs, each spaced about two inches apart. The warping process allows the weaver to determine the amount of yardage needed to warp the loom and thus to weave a piece of fabric to a specific width and length. The bobbins that have been wound with yarn are put into a bobbin rack and pulled down to the warping frame with the threads held together tightly and under tension. The threads held together tightly and under tension. The threads are cast onto each peg in turn, from side to side, working towards the next, right hand peg.
At the ends of the warping frame the weaver will make a punget, a cross end, before the threads are looped over the last peg. The experienced weaver makes this operation appear like second nature and is so fast that often the eye cannot see the entire process: in effect the weaver is twisting each single thread with the right thumb. The spray of threads are then crossed around the thumb, and turned back lie across the open palm. After twenty or so threads are held by the punget, they are pulled to the last two pegs and turned from side to side until the desired width is achieved. The bunches of crossed threads are adjusted to an even tension and arranged neatly, one on top of the other,. Forty threads are counted and white string is tied around the bundle at the cross end. The process is repeated until enough warp threads have been prepared for the required width of sarung, samping or selendang.
The warp is now ready for the next stage: winding the warp threads onto a warping board. The warp threads are removed from the alat anian (warping frame) by inserting two belira (shed sticks). These are about 50 inches long and two inches wide and are inserted through the crossed loops. The two belira are then tied together. At the other end of the warp threads, two cyclindrical sticks called anak kayu are inserted through the crossed yarns. These two sticks form part of the warping board.
The two belira (shed sticks) are then placed onto a pole and the warp threads are stretched while the two anak kayu are placed at the ends. The warp threads are spread evenly and under tension and wound onto a piece of warping board. While walking towards the pole that holds the far end of the warp, the weaver slowly and firmly, winds the wrap threads around the warping board.
5. Menyusuk / Threading
The next stage in the process is sleying or threading the warp yarn onto the loom through the reed of the gigi jentera (batten). Jentera is Malay for batten, and gigi means the ‘dents’ or slits that make up the ‘reed’ of the batten. The reed-a bit like a comb- is made from very fine, split lidi sarung contains 1,600-1,800 lidi dents- arounds 40 dents per inch. Two weavers seated on the floor, facing each other, often do the process of menyusuk: one weaver will insert a penyusuk (hook) made of bamboo, horn or brass and shaped like a split arrow, through the dents in the reed. The warp threads are then drawn through to the other side of the reed in pairs, and tied around one of the anak kayu. To produce a stripe pattern in the warp threads, ten strands of coloured yarn have to be inserted between each single dent in the reed.
6. Menggulung / Winding
The yarns that have been threaded are next wound to a kayu gulung or roller beam so that each thread is evenly tensioned and not twisted or crossed over another thread. This process lines up the warp threads in the order (and length ) in which they are to be placed on the kek (loom)..
7. Mengubung / Connecting the Wrap Yarns to the Karap or Handle Eyes
The wrap threads that have been wound to the roller beam are then connected to the karap, the heddle of the loom. The heddle is an essential feature of a loom that produces the shed openings through which the weft threads are inserted in the weaving process. A shed opening is a temporary opening between two planes of selectively separated warp threads. In Southeast Asia, the heddle usually consists of a wide rod to which selected sets of warp threads are attached by loops of yarn or string. The loops are made using a papan karat (heddle shoe). To start making the loops, a thicker thread is passed through a plain shed made by putting the belira upright, which divides the odd and even warp threads. Holding the papan karat and two shaft sticks in the left hand, the thick thread is looped around the top stick, wound around the papan karat and back over the top stick, passing over the lower stick in a figure of eight. The papan karat has a groove at the top edge for the shaft stick to rest on while the strings heddles are being made. The process is repeated until the first set of top loops is completed before a second set of string loops is made using another pair of shaft sticks.
8. Meneguh / Firming and Finally
Once the warp threads have been attached to the heddle, the warp yarns are tightened on the loom. The threads are checked to make sure none are broken or worn so that no imperfections appear in the final weave.
9. Menenun / Weaving
The weaving process begins after the string heddles are tied in bunches to the heddle rods. A treadle or foot pedal called irik-irik is depressed which raises one set of heddles and opens a shed through which the weft yarn, that is wound onto the peleting and inserted into a wooden or plastic torak or shuttle, is hurled across the width of the loom. The smooth process of the torak through the shed is governed by a penarik tali canan made of wood and attached to the torak by a rope. During the weaving, additional motifs in gold or silver thread mat be added using a small plastic shuttle called a cuban in a technique known as mencolek. As the woven fabric emerges, it is wound around a kayu pesa, a rounded beam.