Greek Loom Weaving Tradition in Naxos

Your visit in Naxos cannot be considered complete without a visit to an outstanding local handloom weaving shops. Naxos is among the remaining places of Greece that has a significant Greek loom weaving tradition still alive, and produces organic textiles coming from the genius of its master women weavers.  From ancient times the women in Naxos have been exceptionally skilled at the art of Greek loom weaving tradition. An art that has passed on through generations, stands out for its beauty, rare craftsmanship, and functionality.

In the Naxian culture, loom weaving is considered an art creation, a commodity, a form of self-expression, and a symbol of life and tradition itself. The world has lost the handloom weaving process along with all natural and organic processes of creating textiles. It’s a complex and difficult art that tends to disappear in most villages, but the  women of Moni village play the first role and continue this tradition to nowdays in this artistic handmade production of the traditional weaving artifacts, along with a few from Apeiranthos village.

Traditional loom weaving is pure art.

Weaving Tradition

An art that romanticizes the handmade….

Traveling to Naxos is a joy. Naxos is rustic, historic, and full of intrigue. What more could you want from a place? Buying a handmade Greek loom weaving  textile is something worth bringing home and something worth supporting….because you support the local community, you support these women, and you’ll have a handmade artistic creation that not only romanticizes the pre-industrial life, but also offers in a way, a return to our childhood.

One of the most unique experiences and a must thing to see for anyone in Naxos is a visit to a Workshop-Exhibition of the hand loom weaving – a tradition that is still alive to present day and it is of extraordinary beauty, quality and technique expertise. All of the textiles are handwoven and hand-embroidered and reflect the highest standard in artisan excellence. The structure of the weave and the visual appearance of the fibers collectively reflect the superior quality of these textiles. Each textile features individual yarns and varying patterns woven with intricate cohesion.

Weaving Tradition

Loom Weaving Workshop-Exhibitions

  • In Chalkio village
  • in Moni Vilalge
  • in hazEL Art Gallery at ELaiolithos
  • in Apeiranthos village

HandLoom Weaving Tradition and ELaiolithos

ELaiolithos as an eco friendly hotel, which loves and supports with passion the Naxos’ loom weaving tradition. Its core values are built in sustainability and Naxos’ tradition and culture; thus offering handloom weaving classes for those who show an interest in the art. You can contact us for further details on the subject. Discover more about the local eco-arts on your holiday travel..… Hand-woven, beautiful, artful and sustainable…..

You can visit the hazEL Art Gallery at ELaiolithos where you’ll experience the passage in time, from the ancient and the traditional to the modern. Find here and purchase impressive traditional weaving creations.

Weaving Tradition

What is a loom?

A hand loom is a wooden machine used in Greece since Homer’s era for weaving fabrics.  The basic purpose of any loom is to hold the longitudinal warp threads in place and under tension to facilitate the interweaving,  the filling of the weft threads. The precise shape of the loom and its mechanics may vary, but the basic function is the same.Different textures or patterns are created if the method of the weave is changed.

The handloom is a machine 100% hand curved by a local skillful wood craftsman. There are looms of many sizes, types, and degrees of complexity. Most looms are operated with treadles or levers. In a wooden vertical-shaft loom, the heddles are fixed in place in the shaft. The warp threads pass alternately through a heddle, and through a space between the heddles (the shed), so that raising the shaft raises half the threads (those passing through the heddles), and lowering the shaft lowers the same threads — the threads passing through the spaces between the heddles remain in place.

Loom weaving is among the most sophisticated and time consuming jobs in the world.

It’s is an extremely long repetitive process which requires a great deal of patience, and focused attention, it’s creative, and it’s very rewarding at the end when the creations are completed. When you weave, you bring together different yarns, fabrics and colors, and unify them in a single, unique artifact. You can make clothes, accessories, and home décor items, in cotton fibers from plain to fancy and elaborate. The raw material used is pure 100% Greek cotton and also silk – all are entirely natural products and come primarily from northern Greece.

Weaving Tradition

Moni Village and Loom Weaving Tradition

Heritage and tradition is still alive in Moni village, in the heart of Naxos island, which is famous for its handloom weaving tradition. Since the old days, the women of Moni weave all kinds of garments and things for the house. The’re a few workshops-exhibitions displaying their handmade textiles which are created with their traditional hand looms.  Even young women in the village have taken up the tradition. Moni has some 200 permanent residents and nearly all households have at least one loom (krevataria in the local dialect) nowadays.

Founder of the Moni Weavers Association of Women, is Maria Marakis (the mother of the founder/owner of ELaiolithos), who was also the president of the Association for many years. She is one of the oldest women from Moni village, an incredibly talented weaver, very knowledgeable in the subject that continues the loom tradition since 1960. She has been a teacher to the new generations for keeping the loom weaving tradition alive over the years. 

She started her loom journey at the age of 15 when she learned how to weave. Later, her passion was to teach the women of her village and the adjacent villages to learn the loom weaving techniques, help them grow and embrace new skills. Handloom weaving textiles need constant innovation, new designs and styles and Maria Maraki with her long experience and skills is a master on that, able to create astonishing pieces with intricate designs and embroidery; all adapted to the modern tastes and perceptions as well.

“ it’s a magical feeling to be making something completely new on an old loom. I’m very proud because my creations travel the world. My reward is the thousands of tourists that pass by every day and buy my creations, and my work travels around the globe. My textiles of contemporary styles of this uniqueness, sophistication and quality travel from Alaska to South Africa and from Europe to New Zealand. For me loom weaving is not just a skill, it’s a ritual of love for the art itself, admiration towards the beauty of the handmade artifacts with tenacity that comes from my heart” she says

Mrs. Maria Maraki, she maintains nowdays her own Exhibition-Workshop in Chalkio village, in Naxos, with an exhibition of great variety of loom weaving textiles and a wonderful selection of these unique artifacts. Her daughter and her daughter in law have also shops in Chalkio, each one with their own styles.

Weaving Tradition

Greek Loom Weaving Tradition

The origin of weaving goes back to the dawn of civilization to at least 8000 years ago. Weaving began about 5000 BC with flax. Spinning was developed first and weaving later. Weaving was an important tradition for women in ancient Greece, and it’s still an alive tradition in many parts of Greece with Naxos to be among the active ones in current days.

In Greece the Moirae (the “Fates”) are the three crones who control destiny, and the matter of it is the art of spinning the thread of life on the distaff. Ariadne, the wife of the god Dionysus, possessed the spun thread that led Theseus to the center of the labyrinth and safely out again. Helen is at her loom in the Iliad to illustrate her discipline, work ethic, and attention to detail. Homer dwells upon the supernatural quality of the weaving in the robes of goddesses where a composition of patterned stripes, figured bands, ornamented borders, and plain fabrics are seen.

In Plato’s Republic, the three Fates (Moirae) are the female personifications of human destiny, each playing a different role in the weaving of the fabric of life:

  • Clotho spins the thread of life from her distaff onto her spindle,
  • Lachesis measures the length of the thread of life with her rod, and
  • Atropos is the cutter of that thread, determining life’s end.

The Greek loom weaving traditional art is at risk of disappearing in the shadow of urbanization and importation of cheaper commodities. That’s a reason why all of us must value and support the loom weaving tradition. It serves as a connection between generations, where these women are in reality artists of the loom weaving, which step on an old tradition and come up with their own interpretation of the past.

Weaving Tradition

Why buying Naxos hand loom woven artifacts?

They’re 100% eco friendly and sustainable

  •  Hand loom woven artifacts have an invisible stamp of uniqueness and authenticity
  •  They’re functional. They’re usually designed with the end user in mind, who either will wearing it or carrying it, storing things on it, or touching it. It can be put on display for others to admire, but unlike a piece of fine art, it will have an aesthetic as well as utilitarian value.
  • They’re locally produced items. 100% sustainable, meaning they have a smaller carbon footprint in terms of transportation and, in general, it’s good to know where the items you surround yourself with are coming from.
  •  You support the future of this craft

You can find monochrome or multi-color flushes, impressive and eloquent patterns for curtains, table cloths and runners, wallets, handbags, coasters, scarves, place mats, aprons, living room table decorations, and much more. They all give great emphasis to the colors blue and red which are traditional Naxian colors, and blue and white, which are traditional Cycladic colors, and the colors of the Greek sky.

What is weaving used for?

Weaving is about living in harmony with the earth because it is a man made art created from the elements available in the steppe landscape. It’s an amazing sustainable art which utilizes beautiful wooden tools: looms, shuttles, frames and more. These tools are works of art in themselves, and of themselves. From table clothes to runners, aprons to rugs, wedding veils to curtains, and hand towels to yoga blankets, shawls, sofa throws and place-mats, textiles surround us, continue to be in our everyday life just like housing, food, and water, and accentuate our personal spaces distinctly.

These textile creations can lie joyfully and imposingly on a bed, chest, sofa, armchair, table, or window, where they give an air of nobility as they mingle with the sunlight.

What is the common material used in weaving?

Cotton is the queen of textiles because of its simplicity and durability. Its combination with silk leads to the creation of a myriad of traditional “yfada” weaving styles,with each one lending its unique flavor to Moni and to Naxian tradition.  Old days they used wool also, especially for making blankets, but nowdays is very difficult to find wool.

greek loom weaving tradition 1a

How did the ancients weave?

Working on a loom is a demanding and difficult task. You need to be calm to weave properly on the loom. Both mind and body must be focused on it. It requires continual counting when working, while the moves required are physically demanding for the entire body. There’s no way that you can work for more than eight hours.

The proper use of throwing the shuttle, calculating the correct yardage, setting a tenterhook and maintaining an even beat needs great attention and focus as well as the proper finishing of the woven piece. You have to know how to use different fibers and colors in one project, and a range of finishing techniques with trims and fringes.

Textiles are made with different patterns, colors, textures and densities for all different purposes. All these are time consuming, and they need great patience and love for it. The most important thing is that if a thread is broken or missing, weaving is not possible with the Loom.

greek loom weaving tradition in naxos

Treat yourself to one of a kind local experience and take a Traditional Handloom Weaving Class authentic, and genuinely different!