Ethiopians have a long tradition of weaving … perhaps because they grow such soft and beautiful cotton. Wherever you go, rural or urban parts of the country, you’ll see Ethiopians wrapped in white cotton; in the highlands and on cool nights, both men and women wrap themselves in gabis, four layers of heavy cotton sewn together. Or, you’ll see women with netelas (gauzy, white shawls), embellished with tibeb (an intricate and colorful weaving) covered in white, shopping, going to church, doing any of their daily tasks.
Today, silk production is being re-introduced into Ethiopia. With the help of the government and foreign donors, farmers are beginning to expand their silk farms and more women are being trained to spin silk. Along with increases in silk production, more textile producers have been trained to use natural dyes and low-impact, plant-based dyes, adding a broader spectrum of colors that are appealing to the export market.
Weaving studios in Ethiopia have made the leap from a domestic, somewhat homogenous commerce, to a business that is looking beyond Ethiopia’s borders and creating high-quality, unique items for the domestic and export market.