Weaving Tour To Carpathians

Liz Davies and I had discussed for years the possibility of going on a weaving trip to Ukraine, after meeting up with Nataliya Cummings from Experience Ukraine at Hellen’s Manor. We had pored longingly over Nataliya’s beautiful photographs of the unspoilt countryside in the Carpathian Mountains and envisaged being there.

Wildflower meadows in Carpathians

We chose the Lizhnyk Rug Weaving Tour and decided to go in June. Luckily Wizz Air, yes! had just started a direct flight from Luton to Lviv. This was perfect as we were met there by Nataliya, her friend and colleague Tanya, together with our driver for the duration of the trip, Vlad .We were driven to the village of Yavoriv which is the centre of Lizhnyk culture in Ukraine. It was a small group of six people from England joined by a couple from Atlanta, Georgia.

The long journey broken up with a stop for lunch in the city of Ivano-Franivsk. Here we had a magnificent feast at a restaurant (Family Restaurant Muliarovyh),that had been the grand home of a rich aristocrat who frequently held salons there. It was a treasure trove of Hutsul Culture which included a small museum.

The journey through the countryside showed sharp contrast between the beauty of the unspoilt countryside, strips of land worked on by hand and bleak Soviet built coal fired electricity stations belching out black smoke, pollution. Poverty showed in the very poor state of the roads as we travelled deeper into the Carpathian Mountains.

accommodation in Yavoriv

Last night party in the village with weavers

Our home in Yavoriv was a wooden cabin straddling a fast flowing mountain stream which provided a natural jacuzzi in the basement for felting the Lizhnyk Rugs. At night I was lulled to sleep by the sound of flowing water. Our host was Svetlana, whose hospitality was exemplary, we were generously presented with the most delicious meals made from the freshest home grown produce. The butter and cheese made from the milk of her cows. We experienced the warm Ukrainian hospitality when the villagers welcomed us into their homes and shared their extraordinary skills and culture,this included a lot of music, singing and dancing.

Lunch with local weaver

Visiting local weaver Maria in Yavoriv

Most of the women in the village had a weaving workshop, the rugs provided income for the household. Spinning and weaving would fit around all the chores that running a smallholding entails, not a moment was wasted. In the area each village would specialise in the crafts that made up the Hutsul Culture i.e. wood carving, embroidery, pottery, basket making and weaving.

Each one of us was introduced to our personal weaver from the village and we would spend the rest of the time weaving in their home.

My weaver was Hanna.This proved to be very creative and great fun trying to find ways of communicating through mime and gesture. The techno savvy amongst us used their phones for translation. The wool for the rugs came from the sheep of the Carpathian Mountains. The fleeces sorted in natural colours, picked through and washed twice in the mountain streams.

Once washed it was carded into large cushions of soft fleece. The warp was finely spun in white and the weft thickly spun, with minimum of twist, suitable for the final felting. All this was done on a wooden spindle,not hanging vertically as we are familiar with but worked horizontally. This I found high on impossible to master, despite the endless patience shown by Hanna. I was greatly relieved to hear that everyone in the group had failed to master it,as the demonstrations made it look so easy.

The weaving was easier, the looms large and rustic with 2 shafts. There were two widths 1.5m and 2m which would accurately provide the finished width for medium and large rugs after felting. Because of the width, one stood to weave, changing the shed by securing the pedal in a notch.

Traditional loom inside the traditional khata-grazhda house.

Weaving workshop in Yavoriv

hands-on gushkas of  wool for weaving.

Weaving workshop in weavers house.