Home » Weaving textiles in Neamț County

Weaving textiles in Neamț County

Considered as simple functional piece, a woven thing presents a limited interest. But analyzed like an act of life, it reveals the utilitarian, technical and artistic outlooks of the community, which has created it at a certain, time and place.

The uninterrupted practice of weaving textiles in Neamț County region is certified by eloquent archaeological, historical and ethnographical testimonies. The generalization of this trade in the villages and the remarkable value of the textures achieved by our weavers prove the existence, in the region of Neamț, of an excellent social, economic and cultural context, that has encouraged the growth of a strong high tide of creativity felt all over the Moldavian area.

The weaver-women has proved, in the course of time, an inexhaustible potential of innovation, craftsmanship and dedication in the processing of textile fibres and threads, in the use of the working techniques, in the diversification and in the enriching of the types of texture, in the crystallization of their morphological and decorative characteristic features.

Although it has been proved that the first textile threads used by the ancestors of the Moldavians were of vegetal nature-kemp and flax, after the apparition and spreading of sheep, supposed to be of Asiatic origin (Haimovici, S, 1987, p.164), the essential features of the textures achieved in these regions have been inspired by the wide use of the woollen threads.

Just like, in the high temperate regions, the spreading of the use of wood has generated that specific “wooden civilization”; wool has held the main role in the field of Moldavian traditional textiles. Three factors have contributed in making wool as important as other fabrics:

– The rapid development of the local grazing which offered huge quantities of wool;
– The various means of wool spinning, which has allowed its generalised use;
– The remarkable natural qualities of the woollen threads-resistance, elasticity, softness, the capacity of absorption, the colour processing.

The knowledge and use of these qualities have facilitated the rapid evolution of the household and handicraft trades of wool processing certified in documents only in the XVth century and the transition towards the industrial production.

The first textile factories of Moldavia were built in Târgu-Neamț at the mid XIXth century. Thus, due to the high level of development of wool weaving, both in the past and in the present, the Neamț region holds an excellent place in Moldavia. Here, there were funded important centres of weaving and embroidery, both around Agapia and Văratec monasteries, in most of the villages and in Târgu-Neamț and Piatra Neamț.

Among the vegetal threads, only the kemp had an important role in achieving the textures in the ‘houses of the poor people, while the flax, lately replaced by cotton, as well as other animal threads registered a low level of use in Neamț County.

As for the weaving-means, a great typological, diversity was created according to each work stage. The simplicity of these non-functional tools proves the maintaining of one archaic and stable weaving system, which hasn’t required a radical evolution.

The most important tool is still the loom with its two types: the vertical one and the horizontal one. If the frame keeps the simplicity of the rudimentary form, while it facilitates the obtaining of superior quality in the textures, through a meticulous labour in a workshop, the peasant stands represent a more evolved device, destined to make easier the home weaving. An important contribution to the improvement of the quality of the Neamț County textiles had the monastic weaving and embroidery workshops around which important weaving centres were funded, such as: Agapia, Văratec, Vânători, Humulești, Răucești, Pipirig, Ghindăoani, Grumăzești, Crăcăoani and many others.

Though primitive, this system involves a lot of compulsory stages for any weaver: from the shearing, washing and praying of the wool or from the growing, melting and beating of the kemp and flax to the hackling and separating of the different kinds of threads to the spinning and the dying of these threads to the warping, covering and weaving itself.

The weaving in the frame, characteristic to the expensive carpets, didn’t allow too many innovations, because the tinsel threads are introduced simply, by hand, among the warp threads.
For forming different colour spots are used methods of separation or putting together of threads, which determined the names of the techniques such as “wholes pattern” and “tight pattern” with several variants. In the Neamț region the most frequently used techniques were those of “tight pattern” with interwoven threads and of “wholes pattern”.

The methods of frame weaving have extended through the stands for which, though, technical specific tools have encouraged the invention of some schemes of weaving, of a growing complexity to the quickness of weaving in stands with the help of the shuttle and of pressing the tinsel-threads with the weaver’s reed, there adds the possibility of grouping in different ways and of alternative crossing of the warp threads with the help of the shafts.

Once this mechanism is known, it is up to each weaver to choose and invent models, which are more decorative and difficult, the more shafts they combine. In the Neamț region, more than in the other Moldavian regions, the “needed” textures in many shafts have been and remained preferred, turning lately into a real fashion in our village areas.

Homemade textures first meet some of the people’s practical necessities and that is why we have classified them according to the functional criterion, which holds a fundamental role in the formation of the morphological and decorative characteristic features.

According to this criterion we have divided the home textures into five main groups: for sleeping, for wiping the body and the dishes, for covering the walls, the furniture and the floor.

  1. The textures for sleeping, together with the old costumes, are the first types of textures meant for the protection of the body against bad weather. Since the appearance of the simple kemp carpet for covering the bed and the sleeper kept up to now by the poor social status of the village inhabitants. There has passed a long time up the thick woollen blanket, woven in stripes, in natural colours or, more recently, with dyed weaves – this is the most important and most genuine texture for covering and, at the same time, the most expensive because it requires not only a big quantity of wool, but also the operation of thickening at the “stanza” – that rudimentary tool which uses the force of running water.

Other traditional textures for sleeping are the bed sheets, called here “lepedeu” or “prostire” and the long pillow cases, called “căpătâie”, all being initially kemp woven, without any decoration and later, flax woven, thin wool and cotton, with a minimal decoration placed only at the visible end, made up of groups of stripes coloured in ocher, red and black. The simplicity and the lasting of those textures have been imposed by their utilitarian functions, which didn’t hinder, through that in the last decades, they should undergo strong process of adorning.

  1. The textures for wiping are represented by the category of towels. The same utilitarian roles have imposed the use of the strong kemp threads with their remarkable simplicity. Only the edges of the towels have been marked with a few coloured stripes.
  2. The textures meant to covering the walls make the must important group of homemade textures. If from the morphological point of view they underwent few changes – from the long and narrow forms to the rectangular ones, bigger or smaller -, from the decorative point of view the textures underwent changes after changes, directed to the ornamental and chromatic side.

The oldest and the most characteristic Moldavian wall texture is the ” wall carpet”, made of thick threads of kemp, but mainly of wool naturally or vegetal coloured. Its remarkable length, meant to cover all the walls of a room, has imposed the specific system of decoration, though the distribution or the endless alternation of the simple stripes, among which decorative registers with geometrical ornaments were later inserted. We underline the importance and the stability of this decorative structure, broken and open, characteristic to the “wall carpet”, as eloquent reflection of the characteristic features of the Moldavian folk spirit.

The tendency to the amplification of the decorative character of the “wall carpet” has gradually led to the appearance of the folk carpet, at the same time with an even larger spreading in the rich people’s houses, of the expensive carpets of Eastern influence. By carpet we understand any thick woollen texture, which leaves the decorative, structure specific to the “wall carpet”, being orientated to more elaborate decorative patterns, in ever shorter and wider form. The carpets has been of highest interest to weavers who have been ceaselessly concerned with inventing original distribution forms of the decorative elements and have the ornament colour combination. The characteristic features of the Neamț carpet are:

– The disproportion of the report between the fundamental decorative elements: the narrow border and the field surface;
– The preference for the simple decorative structures, observing the principles of repetition, alternation and symmetry;
– The logic and the clarity of the ornamental composition;
– The preference for the specific symbols of the sun (the wheel), the moon (the star), the soul (the bird), of the life (the tree) and of beauty (the flower);
– The harmonization of the light vegetal colours, in esthetical relationships of complementarity between the surface and the border: olive-green, yellow, light-brown and black, with a clear underlining of the motives coloured in white, dark red and black.

We underline the existence of some technical and artistic differences between the folk carpets made in stands and the more expensive ones made in frames. If the folk carpets are longer and narrower, with simple structures having abstract and stylised flower motives, the carpets worked in frames, in the well-known monastery workshops from Agapia and Văratec, are characterized by monumental forms with complex decorative structures in which symbolic compositions prevail, rendered in an interesting chromatic harmony. Due to their remarkable artistic value, these carpets belonging to the patrimonies of museums and monasteries, represent the top of the craftsmanship’s and the gift of our weavers, these have become touchstones for the Moldavian and Romanian textures.

In the last century, we mention the appearance of other wooden textures for the walls, but of lower quality than that of stripes and carpet characteristic to these places. Among these, we mention only the carpet with a single side, simply called “alesătură”, the carpet and even the tapestry, which achieve the jump from the folk style to the cultivated one.

Excepting the woollen thick textures which, though keeping the primary function of covering the home, getting a more intensely character, some sorts of thinner have been made, for the completion of the decoration of the home. That is why the towels for icons, glasses, windows and walls have come into a proper form. Made of flax threads, raw silk or cotton, the ornaments set at the edges, woven or embroidered, the towels were placed under a butterfly shape giving light and more life to the traditional sobriety of the room. The combination between “wall carpet” and towel represents one of the fundamental characteristics of the house textures of Neamț County and generally, of Moldavia.

  1. The group of the textures for covering the furniture is not as old as the other groups, because, for a long time, the bed and the table in our ancestor’s houses have been used uncovered. In the course of time, the textures for covering and those for the walls have extended even on the pieces of furniture, but getting their own characteristics.

The “wool carpet”, once placed on the “wooden bench” attached to the walls, had the same characteristics as the “wall carpet” that followed it, forming a specific unity of the Moldavian home. The coverlet meant to cover the bed, is a thinner woollen texture, “weaved” woven in four or several shafts with simple, compact or more elaborate ornamental structures in which the abstract motives and geometrical flower are developed under very different forms. Nowadays, this category of folk texture has created a real fashion in the village areas. Though artistically inferior to the “wool carpet” and the traditional carpet, the coverlets are authentic creations of our weavers for their own use.

Among the thin textures, we single out only the table cloth, with its two separate functions: for serving – rougher and simpler pieces – and for decoration – ornamental pieces with variable characters. The old table cloths were refined woven motifs, the weaver ones being embroidered on the borders, with abstract and flower ornaments, with red and black dyed cotton thread to be replaced now with the doilies made of rare linen, sewed in cross, with folk polychrome models. The new pieces of lower artistic quality have extended to the other pieces of furniture, on the TV-set and at the doors and windows, making up a stylistic momentary unity, which was eliminated in time by the authentic values.

  1. The textures for the floor were the last to appear in the people’s homes. The floor, beautifully clayed in our country people’s homes, had never been covered. It was only after the appearance of the wooden-floor that it became necessary to protect it with used “wall carpets” and “woolen carpets”, or special woven in kemp, locally called “bed clothes”. The same practice is maintained in the village, but, under an urban fashion influence, the peasant too, began to move the carpet from the wall to the floor, making use of the same main way of organizing the interior of the house.

Thus, home textures, as one can see from the way they are called, have evolved at the same time with the house, meeting different practical and esthetical requirements. Their essential role has remained that of creating the comfort and the ambiance needed to the family life, according to the material conditions and the changing view on the useful and the beautiful.

The whole exposé is a plea for the authentically, documentary and artistic qualities of the home textures of the Neamț region and it is, at the same time, an homage paid to so many generations of weavers that have created incontestable and spiritual values which place them as top priority in the history of the Romanian folk art.

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