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Sardinian textile traditions: the weaving materials

di Elisabetta Roncati
raw Sardinian material

In the third episode of our virtual journey we discover the raw weaving materials used on the Island

raw Sardinian materials

WOOL, LINEN, HEMP, COTTON, SILK, BISSO

Sardinia is very rich in terms of resources that in the course of history on the Island almost all natural raw materials useful in the textile sector have been used. Much of the information reported below has arrived to us thanks to important documents preserved in the Archives of the main Sardinian cities.

Sardinian raw materials

Raw Sardinian materials

raw materials
Sardinian textile traditions: the weaving materials

WOOL Sardinian raw materials

Without doubts, sheep’s wool (lana erveghinalana feminina) was the most used raw material in Sardinia and for this reason the best known also by tourists. Sometimes it was mixed with goat wool to obtain rough and coarse fabrics to make clothes and bags for objects (saddlebags). For the same purpose, lamb’s wool (lana andzonina) was even used.

LINEN

In the traditional economy of many areas of Sardinia, based on cereals and pastoralism, the rotation of agricultural crops had considerable space. The most useful plant for this purpose was linen, which was then used in regional textile craftsmanship. Some varieties of wild linen (linu burdu) even grew on the Island and the Sassari area was famous for its weaving.

raw Sardinian materials

raw Sardinian materials
Sardinian textile traditions: the weaving materials

HEMP

Currently in Sardinia only the name of the plant remains (cánnau, cannáu, cánniu, cágnu, cannaíttu, cannoíttu) linked above all to a certain type of strings obtained by working this fiber. From a textile point of view, the use of hemp dates back to medieval times.

COTTON Sardinian raw materials

As we all know, the largest cotton crops are in America, India, China, Egypt, Pakistan, Sudan and Eastern Europe. In the Mediterranean basin, cotton arrived thanks to the Arabs. In Europe it is with the industrial revolution that the fiber begins to be used massively, under the pressure of mechanical and technological inventions. It is precisely for this reason that the introduction of the cultivation of cotton in Sardinia was late enough, to be ascribed no earlier than 1600.

raw material

Sardinian
Sardinian textile traditions: the weaving materials

SILK

It is not yet known how the breeding of silkworms and the cultivation of mulberry trees (their main food) reached Sardinia. At the moment the only certainty is given by some medieval documents, however preserved in Spanish archives (precisely in Barcelona), as well as in Genoa and Pisa. These attest to the presence of silk fabrics on the Island in the Middle Ages. However, almost all researchers agree in affirming that the indigenous production is not late.

Speaking of silk, we thus come to a real treasure of the Island, the BISSO MARINO.

Sardinian raw materials

raw Sardinian textiles
Sardinian textile traditions: the weaving materials

With this term, derived from the late Latin byssus and from the Greek byssos, very different fabrics were indicated according to the various eras, but always very precious. In fact, in biological language, the term byssus indicates the filaments produced in a semi-fluid form and hardened by contact with sea water, by a gland present in the body of some molluscs. The main one is the so-called Pinna nobilis, which releases these threads to attach themselves firmly to the backdrop and remain anchored. The animal thus does not move due to the currents. And it is precisely from Pinna nobilis that, since ancient times, a silky-looking fabric with a golden brown color, called “marine silk”, has been obtained.

As in other Italian regions, Pinna nobilis fishing in the past was also practiced abundantly and with it fine linen gloves, shawls, hats, jackets and other items of clothing were created. Moreover, the Pinna nobilis, before it was declared a protected species, was used in food.

The tradition of byssus spinning was widespread above all on the island of Sant’Antioco and la Maddalena and remained so until the early twentieth century. Unfortunately, this tradition has gradually been lost and today there is only one teacher of this particular spinning and weaving process: Chiara Vigo, who resides right on the island of Sant’Antioco.

We look forward to seeing you next week to discover together the most important Sardinian towns for the textile tradition.

Thanks to @visitsardinia and @cagliariairportofficial

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