During my work in Ethiopia I found the term „counterbalance loom with 8 shafts and the flying shuttle“ too long. So I introduced the short term FLYING-8. At first this term was only used for the loom with all the desired features. Later it became synonymous for my way of weaving and the idea behind it. Hand weaving should be comfortable, quick and enjoyable. A weaver should be able to execute all steps of the weaving process alone and efficiently. Even more, it should be possible to make a living from this wonderful craft.
I started weaving when I was twelve years old. Ever since then I searched for technical improvements. From 1986 to 1988 I did a traditional weaving apprenticeship in Germany. When I started my own workshop in 1992 I realized, that I couldn’t make a living by working the way I had been taught. Throughout the next years I analysed the weaving process more closely, changed methods and developed new tools like the Lift-System and the Best-Friend.
For the last few years I have been teaching that knowledge to other weavers in many different countries but also in my workshop in Hamburg.
In 2009 I constructed the PERSONAL-FLYING-8 WORKSHOP UNIT, a loom and all the equipment you need for weaving, what can be easily build by one person, without the use of electricity, without the need of drilling holes and without metal parts like brackets or axles.
The building instructions for the PERSONAL-FLYING-8 loom (€ 59,- plus shipping) and the book FLYING-8 DAS WEBEN (€ 29,- plus shipping) can be ordered from me.
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In the moment when I felt that the handweaving process is not really fully developed I became a weaver. I felt a deep urge inside me to find better ways. That was when I was 12 years old, having threads around a piece of cardboard and putting some other thread through by picking one up, one down.
Through all the years I developed a new school of weaving, the FLYING-8.
In 2007 I was first time invited to Ethiopia by the Ethio-German development program ecbp (engeneering capacity building programm) to give a training about the countermarch loom with eight shafts and the flying shuttle.
In Ethiopia are more than 500,000 to 700,000 active weavers. Allmost 100% of them are using the traditional loom with 2 shafts, 2 pedals, a width of max. 90 cm and no warpbeam. This loomconcept has not change since 3000 years. The traditional products are white cotton fabrics which are single or sewn together as bigger cloth, all are showing a color- and/or patternfull beginning and end. For this the weaver has to read out single threads or groups of threads with a stick before he can throw the weft through the shed. The main part of the fabrics are plainweave.
Nowadays also the weaving with 4 shafts got introduced and acylic and rayon are used as ”wool” and “silk”.
The demand for the traditiopnal clothes within the Ethiopian society is high but the productivity of the weavers is much higher. More than 40% of all textilproduction in Ethiopia is done by handweaving. Weavers are at the low end of the society. Usually they are poor and not well respected. “Shamani” means “weaver” in the Amharic language and it even is used as a offending word.
The idea of the weaving trainings was to enable weavers to produce wider fabrics with complex patterns not only for the local but also for the global market.
Between October 2007 and May 2009 I gave several trainings in different cities in Ethiopia.
The duration of a training session was 2 or 4 weeks. 20 Trainees on 10 looms. The trainees were weavers from all levels of education. Some never learned how to read, otheres were speaking very good Englsh.
The 2 weeks initial training focused on the theoretical and prctical introduction of the countermarch loom with 8 shafts and 10 pedals and the flyingshuttle system.
Understanding the technology, reading and making technical drawings with the draft, tie-up, order of pedals and patternface as well as milling a warp, setting the looms, making the tie-up, making spools, using the flyingshuttle… 2 weeks, 10 looms, 20 weavers, 30° C and me running, struggeling and instructing inbetween.
Allmost all of the weavers were capable to understand and use the loom. While we had some weaving demonstrations in public the common people were showing big admiration and appreciation towards the weavers who were able to use this strange and complex loom as they were ingeneers. And their selfasteam raised high.
I called the looms FLYING-8 looms because they show all what I want to find in a loom. In this sence I did not invent this loom but it contains some of my inventions together with what I have found good from other looms.
The FLYING-8 loom criterieas are:
- the pedals coming from under the bench
- one thread tie-up
- a full width decliened bench
- adjustable shuttleboxes made from cardboard
- the topwheel is 10 cm right off center
- all lams are on one level
- the clothbeam is winding towards the weaver, it is turned by the right foot
- for the warping only newspaper is used to safe the edges from falling to the sides
After the second training I asked Esmael Jemal if he wants to become my co-trainer. He is a weaver from Bahir Dahr, young, funny, active, intelligent and allways interessted to help his fellow weavers. He turned out to be the best wever I have ever met in Ethiopia. His English was good so he also could translate my English to Amharic. We were giving many trainings together ever since. Later Esmael was hired as a trainer himself also.
Along the last training we gave together, I also was assigned to help two companies to build a masterloom. All the looms which were build before were of different designs or were never fully accomplished.
During this process I decided to construct a loom that every weaver is able to build himself.
By such a loom the weaver is independent from metall- or woodworking companies, the prize is only 1000 Birr instead of 9000 Birr and the weaver can maintain the loom himself. It was my aim to make drilling holes, using electricity and the need of metal parts e.g. ratches nd achels obsolet. And more than that I was hoping to reactivate the ecbp handweaving programm but that has not happened yet.
In the summer of 2009 when I spent some weeks in Estonia on the farm of Anu Raud, I took over a small old shet, which I prepared as a wood-workshop. From a nighbour I bought some 60 m of 4cm x 6cm wood, what is the standard size in Ethiopia. From a saw mill I got other siyed wood.
In the late days of June I transformed the timber to the first PERSONAL-FLYING-8 loom. No holes were drilled, no electricity and no additional metallparts were needed.
Later in Finland and in Hamburg I build two more PERSONAL-FLYING-8 looms. In January 2010 together with the textil artisan Natalia Pongis from Montevideo, Uruguay, I traveled back to Ethiopia. Here Natalia, Esmael and I were building two more looms.
I have met Natalia Pongis on a faire in Puerto Rico in Mai 2008. She was showing a high interest in the weaving. I invited here for internships to my workshops in Hamburg and Finland. With her weavings she got well recognized in Montevideo. Along an artisan competion and exhibition she got an honorable mention for her weavingwork in 2009.
Being that well recognized the ministry of culture and the ministry of foreignaffairs of Uruguay agreed to hand out a special passport to Sinora Pongis, to make her travels for learning new artisan techniques more easy.
Natalia will have the first PERSONAL-FLYING-8 loom on the Aerican continent in her workshop in Mntevideo. Her first profession, handknitting, is time consuming and not good for her back, she says. She wants to switch more to the weaving on the FLYING-8. Also in Uruguay the countermarch loom is not really known and may be Natalia will give weaving-classes in the future.
Under the name “From the hands of Ethiopia” I want to establish a line of hometextil. For that I made a specific towel-design which Esmael’s workshop is producing now. He is running his workshop “Flying-8 Weaving Workshop" together with two of his cousins and a young lady who is responsible for the finishing of the towels. The towels are selling very well so that hopefully we can involve more weavers by 2011. Esmael can build more looms and provide more jobs and better income to more weavers in his country.
Since 2006 I am in close contact with the weaving company “Sabahr” in Addis Abeba.
Kathy Marshal from Canada founded this company in 2004 also with the idea to creat more fair-payed jobs, especially for women who are traditionally doing the hand spinning of the cotton. As a matter of fact, there is also wild silk produced in Ethiopia, Erisilk. Sabahar, the name comes from Saba, the Queen of Saba and “har” the amharic word for “silk”, is devoted to that fiber. The Erisilk was introduced to Ethiopia not too long ago. The silkwurms are eating the Casterplant which is growing wild everywhere in Ethiopia. Some cocoons Sabahar is producing on the own beautyful compound, but mostly they are buying from local farners. Sabahar also is deying the own yarn with both chemical and vegetable deys. The company is constantly successful, more than 100 families are benefitting from Sabahar company. Sabahar products can be found mainly in the US and Europe. The company is certifeyed as a fairtrade company.
By now I have set up five Flying-8 looms at Sabahar and more are needed. Most of the weaving is done on traditional looms still. Once a year I am invited to take part in the desig-process and developing new products. That is a very satticfying, exciting and always too short time.
Along the PERSONAL-FLYING-8 loom I have designed all other hardware needed for a fully equipted weavingworkshop. Not the reed yet, sorry, but the warpingmill with liftsystem, raddle, spoolingwheel, shuttle, spools and hedles can be easyly done by you inperson. It only takes about 200 Euro for the material and a few days of your time.
In the manual “THE PERSONAL-FLYING-8 WORKSHOP UNIT” you will find the instuctions and plans for building it all yourself.
In the book “The bright way of the Flying-8” Esmael and I are discribing all steps of creating a fabric on a Flying-8 loom in the the Flying-8 way.
By the way…, for making space for my PERSONAL-FLYING-8 loom in Filand, I put my old Marquardsen loom out to the garden and installed my swingingbench in it. Every sun-set is reminding me now of the rising of the PERSONAL-FLYING-8 loom.
Dear Friend of our towels!
My name is Esmael Jemal. I am the leader of the
FLYING-8 WEAVING WORKSHOP in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia..
“Flying-8” is the name of our looms. They are new in Ethiopia, much more complex and much bigger than the traditional looms, which our fathers are still using.
I have learned the Flying-8 weaving in a training given by the European handweaver Andreas Moeller.
We became good friends and together we started the project “FROM THE HANDS OF ETHIOPIA”. My workshop is weaving high quality cotton towels which are sold in the Ethiopian and international market.
So far we are six people working in this project. We can build more Flying-8 looms and provide more jobs to our fellow weavers who want to improve their lifes and the lifes of their families as soon as the demand for our towels is rising.
Because of the special weavingstructure our towels are highly absorbend and still light, strong and of small volume. They are perfect for hands and body.
Please enjoy our towels where ever you are!
You can find us daily at
FlYING-8 WEAVING WORKSHOP
Bahir Dar, Ethiopia
Cluster Kabele 15 (near to Highland- and Blue Nil College)
Esmael Jemal mobil +251 918 766383
open 10 am - 5 pm
14,95 € small towel
29,95 € big towel