Natural dyeing. The process behind the label

 

Five years after typhoon Haiyan, weavers from Basey, Philippines are still weaving their lives together.

 

Viahera stands for fairly made, fairly sourced and above all ethically produced accessories.The process is the base foundation of Viahera’s products and naturally dyed plant fibres are used to create beautiful accessories like scarves and bags.

In her own words, designer Jeanny Buan explains the process and here is what she says:

  1. The process starts with harvesting the raw material- pandan, abaca or tikog when it reaches the proper maturity. Younger plants are not used as they tend to be shorter and softer.
  2. Removal of thorns- the sides of the leaves are manually sliced off, leaving just the middle part.
  3. Drying- Depending on the weather, the leaves are sun dried between 2-7 days. The hotter it is, the faster it dries up. This poses a problem during typhoon season (end of May- September) as the weavers cannot constantly dry the raw material
  4. Flattening/ pounding manually using flat sticks- the dried leaves are manually pounded and flattened using logs of wood in order to prepare for weaving
  5. Drying- 2nd drying process that can take 2-7 days depending on the weather
  6. Plant based dyeing process- the dried leaves are submerged in dye. This can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
  7. Drying- Dyed leaves are sun dried for the third time
  8. Flattening- To ensure that the consistency of the thickness and width is the same, the dyed leaves are flattened again and then cut into equal portion of strands
  9. Weaving- Once the weavers have lined up the dried and dyed leaves, the make the designs according to Viahera’s requirement

An experienced weaver holding freshly harvested tikog grass

SCARF DYE

  1. Plant based dyes are manually planted in a local farm in the Philippines such as indigo, turmeric, mahogany and cogon grass
  2. Dye is extracted by boiling the leaves, barks of trees or the plant itself
  3. Natural yarns made from pineapple fibers or organic Philippine cotton is soaked in the dye- detailed ikat dyeing discussed below
  4. Yarns are air dried
  5. “Warping” is done with hands- this is the process where the yarn is stretched on a loom to ensure the tightness before the weft is manually weaved, this is the first stage of the weaving process.
  6. Heddling and Reeding- Two of the most crucial parts of a loom is the heddle and reed. The heddle allows the warp thread to be separated so the weft can be added while the reed looks like a comb, which is used to push the weft in between the threads during the weaving process. Instead of using a loom, the threads from our scarves are manually inserted one by one.
  7. Weaving- once the heddling and reeding is done and the design is finalizes, it is then tightened using a loom.

 

IKAT

Ikat is a beautiful dyeing process which is widely seen in South Asian and South American countries. It is a dyeing technique where bundles of yarn is wrapped or tied together and dyed as many times as it needs in order to come up with the desired pattern. Unlike other dyeing techniques where the dye is applied to the fabric already after woven, ikat is a process where dye is applied BEFORE the yarn is woven together.

Once the yarn is dyed, it is then sun dried between 2-10 days depending on the weather. After it has dried, the thread is lined up together to form the desired pattern.

Ikat weaving

 

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Weaving social links

Jeanny Buan

A lot has been said about the eco – friendly fashion movement and its efforts and strategies to put an end to practices that harm the environment. However, we are not talking enough about the communities who were once affected by this global over industrialized world and we are definitely not doing enough to re build them.

Weaving social links within the Philippines indigenous female communities is what drives Viahera’s founder and designer Jeanny Buan. Having grown up in Cordillera, Philippines, she knows first – hand what it means to struggle every day for the bare basics and has made social responsibility, ethical practices and sustainable values her main focus within her design practice.
Viahera story begins in 2011 when Jeanny Buan moved to Canada. The beauty of this new environment sparked a love for traveling and hiking in the wilderness, but it also made her aware of the importance of preserving and sustaining our world. And so, as Jeanny traveled around the idea of Viahera was born.

“I chose the name Viahera, also spelled Viajera which means “Female traveller” in Spanish. This name is close to my heart as I am mixed race with a blend of Filipino, Spanish and Chinese”, Jeanny explains.

Fashion and Heart had the opportunity to sit down with Jeanny and this is a little snippet of what she told us:
Fashion and Heart: “You already told us about your passion for sustaining our environment but where does the drive to create a brand that fosters sustaining indigenous traditional crafts come from?”
Jeanny Buan: “In 2013, two disasters occurred which totally impacted my views on  fashion and its implications for women and nature. First, typhoon Haiyan devastated Philippines and left over 10,000 people dead and shortly after the factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed over 1,000 employees. It made me think of a potential solution that can help women inspire other women to dress up without harming the environment. VIAHERA WAS BORN. Viahera is an eco friendly brand of handbags and scarves made by Indigenous women from my home country Philippines in Cordillera, Cebu, Negros and Basey; and accessories which are locally handmade in Saskatoon, Canada. Our aim is to back to the community.”
Fashion and Heart: “What are Viahera’s core values?”
Jeanny Buan: “Respect, commitment to the environment, giving back to the community, inclusion and creating opportunity.”
Fashion and Heart: “Can you tell us about your “giving back to the community” strategy?”
Jeanny Buan: “Viahera gives back to the communities where we do business and where our products are made. In Philippines we pay for the tuition, monthly allowance and one extra curricular activity for three grade 7 Viahera scholars; we pay fairly to the weavers who are making the products, we raise awareness about weavers from Philippines in social media and we have an Annual giving- For the whole month of January and February, where proceeds from the sale of any pink product (wallet, handbag, headband, coin purse or scarf) goes to the Red Cross Pink Day program (bullying prevention education). In Canada we focus on the importance of immigrant inclusion and creating opportunity by employing skilled refugees or new Canadians that can help them gain confidence and experience in the Canadian workforce.”

Leticia Sab-it, Ruth Sanoy and Jeanny Buan at Pines City National high School.

Thousands of kids in Phillippines are unable to go to school due to poverty. Jeanny Buan was a government scholar while attending High School. Her company has developed a scholar system with Pines National High School to give back to the community where her product is made.

Fashion and Heart: “How are these values connected with your upbringing in the Philippines?”
Jeanny Buan: “I was able to finish my education through scholarships and I feel that I have the moral obligation to “pay it forward” and provide students the same opportunity that I had when I was a child. In terms of respect, my family, being mixed race, treated everyone with respect regardless of how they looked like or what language they speak. I owe it to my family for raising me to look beyond skin colour. In regards to the environment, I grew up not having much, we only had water from the tap three times a week so we would fill big tanks with water to have enough supply for the whole week. Some of my neighbors did not have electricity, we “re-used, reduced and recycled” so caring for the environment came naturally to me.”

Florentina coin purse $20 Canadian dollars. Photo by: Titanium Photography.

Flora Wallet $35 Canadian Dollars. Models: Aida Gossa, Melissa Cheetham and Kyarra Sumners-Daniel, hairstylist: Tina Monz, Make up: Hisa Quian, Photo by: Colin Chatfield

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Mapuche weaving, warping lives.

Urdimbre de peinecilla, flotaciones alternadas, doble faz.

A recount of my personal experience in Mapuche weaving during some very cold days of July 2017 in Buenos Aires.

Part of my fascination with Mapuche weaving is engrained in its inherent complexity both in the finished product and in its process. I have always admired Mapuche textiles mainly through its cultural significance but I never had a good understanding of its process. Understanding the sacred quality of these textiles meant that I needed to weave my way through the process of weaving, feeling the threads in my hands, touching and discriminating a warp end from another. The way the warp ends alternate creates a rhythm, a cycle in the weaving process. There is an order, a hierarchy to be respected. An ancient knowledge and tradition that comes through by the understanding of the technique and which brought tears to my eyes by the simple act of weaving my understanding through the wool yarns.

A very simple loom is used (witral) which is a big rectangle made by two vertical sticks (wuicha wuichawe) and two horizontal (quilwos). These sticks are the ones holding the warp. Smaller round sticks are also used in the process of warping and the upper one (raninelhue) will remain throughout the weaving process to separate different layers in the warp.

Betty Taranto and Jorge Mari are two wonderful teachers who have devoted their careers to learning and teaching Mapuche weaving techniques. They have been passionate enough to recover long lost techniques by studying old textiles, and they have been playing an important social role in promoting Mapuche knowledge, appreciation and understanding. They are currently working with Artesanias Neuquen in a series of workshops which aims to help Mapuche weavers to recover traditional techniques which haven’t been passed on from older to younger generations.

I spent three six hour days with Betty Taranto and Jorge Mari in a wonderful warm environment in which I was able to discover not only the techniques I was craving to learn but also I was able to discuss some aspects of the Mapuche weavers daily lives.

I learnt three techniques: Urdido circular suplementaria, Nimin laboreo forzado con base de peinecilla and tubular doble tela.

As a weaver myself I was able to judge the level of difficulty of these techniques. Mapuche weaving knowledge is engrained in its own culture, its own way of being and living. It became apparent when I sat in front of a witral that time needed to slow down, that my intuition needed to be engaged and that my mind/body coordination needed to be in the present moment. As part of the tubular doble tela I was challenged with the many cruzes needed for a weft pass as well as struggling with the warp ends to discriminate which ones needed to be in front to be able to draw. When I was able to brake down the technique into understandable meaningful steps I was half way through the faja. I found that this weaving knowledge could only be acquired by observation of the process and by the actual process itself. It confirmed that Mapuche weaving is a language in itself, with its linguistic characteristics that need to be understood within the context of the process…

It opened my eyes to what is yet to come. We need to sustain what has been in order to imagine what will be.

Urdimbre suplementaria, doble faz aparente.

 

For more information about how to learn Mapuche weaving please click here

and click here