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HANDLOOM WEAVING FOR PERSONS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS

Hand weaving can be learnt and practised by people with physical disability, hearing disability and learning disability. 

Interestingly, the process of weaving is also therapeutic for people with intellectual & developmental disorders and generally for people with low self-esteem/ anxiety. Hand weaving helps people improve their gross & fine motor skills too, thereby making them live more independently.

In addition to helping them with reduced anxiety levels and improved self esteem, it also gives them social acceptance. Weaving can  be taken up as an occupation that can provide financial support to them.

selection of looms

Traditional looms are usually large in size and involve a lot of physical work to operate them - be it warping, setting up the loom, adjusting all loom parameters including warp tension from time to time, etc to achieve desired quality levels.

These operations require strained continuous work, high degree of concentration and perfect skills to maintain quality. For persons with disability, it is a very challenging task as they don’t have attributes like concentration & strength. Moreover, it takes a long time to acquire these skills and to gather knowledge of various traditional techniques/ designs.

So, it is important to choose ergonomically designed and user-friendly looms and introduce simple weaving techniques so persons with Intellectual & Developmental Disorders also can enjoy weaving and produce interesting products.

suggested looms

Loom choices are based on functionality and intellectual capacity. While people with IDD and high function can take up weaving on Rigid heddle looms  and possibly on Inkle looms too, all kinds of people including ones with low function can weave on Saori looms.

The Rigid heddle looms and Inkle looms are simple to use hobby looms and can be set up easily at home. Interestingly, weaving has become a family activity for some families, where parents & children spend some quality time together! The Rigid heddle looms & Inkle looms are suitable for meaningful engagement rather than vocation.

Rigid heddle looms can be used for making stoles/ scarves, material for cushion covers, bags, place mats, napkins and the like. Typically, a length of 2 to 3 meters can be woven on these looms.

Inkle looms can be used for weaving fashion belts, camera straps, guitar straps, dress trims, saree or blouse borders, key chains, watch straps and such accessories

Made in Japan, Saori looms are deployed across the world for Rehab & vocational purpose. They are very easy to weave on and quite fast compared to Rigid heddle looms. Saori looms can be used for making all kinds of fabrics woven on Rigid heddle looms and also finer fabrics. Fabrics of upto 20 meter lengths can be woven faster on Saori looms making it the preferred choice for vocation.

saori looms

Saori looms are sturdy floor looms, ergonomically designed and come with a lot of accessories to make it convenient for  people with disabilities to operate the looms with ease. There is a shuttle track which ensures that the shuttle passes through the shed easily without falling down. The person can adjust the warp tension, wind the cloth, wind the bobbins for weft, etc without even getting out of the loom.  The loom is height adjustable and foldable, occupying less space.

There are a number of additional accessories which can be added based on the requirement of the person. For example, there is a special shuttle shelf for people who cannot hold the shuttle in their hands while weaving. If someone cannot use  legs to treadle the loom, it can be modified to operate with hands. Wheel chair version looms are also available.

Weaving Techniques:

Saori loom can be used to weave any kind of yarn- be it cotton, wool, silk, jute, etc. While all the regular pattern based weaving can be done on these looms, we suggest ‘Free Style Weaving’ for persons with Intellectual & developmental disorders, as it is easier to follow this style and also be creative with the techniques.

The advantage of free style weaving is that it encourages  self-expression and does not follow set designs.  As there is no concept of errors/ failures in free style weaving, the mental pressure is off and leads to creative expressions of the weaver. Interesting products can be designed  from the fabrics made with free style weaving – like scarves, mufflers, bags, cushion covers, place mats, table runners, lap top covers, etc and even art forms.

Warping:

This is a key area of concern for vocational centres having Special persons, as warp preparation and loading onto the loom is a skilled job which takes time. To facilitate a quick start,  we supply Ready-made warps in 20m rolls for Saori looms, which makes weaving a ‘plug & play’.

Training:

At Shuttles & Needles Studio, we provide training on setting up the loom, basics of weaving and also some interesting hand weaving techniques which can be easily practiced by people with special needs. We can train the trainers/ special educators in about 3-4 days time at our Studio.Design & product ideas will be provided during the training.

Raw material supply:

The quality of the raw materials plays a major role in producing saleable, good value products and  in trouble-free weaving. In addition to supplying Ready-made warps off the shelves, we  supply premium quality cotton & blended yarns in different colours at subsidized prices to NGOs/ centres for special persons.