Jenny Hewett learns the art of traditional kilim-making at a trial course with craft company reMADE DXB.
Contrary to what my art-loving persona might have you believe, I have never been good with crafts. Ever since I can remember, my mum, herself an accomplished seamstress, has tried to teach me the art of sewing, going so far as to buy a mini-machine to mimic her work when I was just five. Yet, to this very day I still require direction on how to sew a button. So, I wasn’t sure my skills would particularly wow the punters when I rocked up to a kilim-weaving trial class with reMADE DXB in its Al Quoz venue The Sewing Parlour.
Brits Paula Horsfall and Theresa Tsui are the founders of reMADE DXB, which offers workshops in everything from needlework to knitting. As well as contributing to Dubai’s creative landscape, the ladies say that these types of courses are a great way to socialise.
‘People come to us for not only to learn something new, but for the social interaction and to meet like-minded people as an alternative to brunch or a coffee morning,’ says Tsui. We’re passionate about reviving lost skills such as machine sewing as well as traditional crafts such as kilim-weaving.’
The snug venue occupies a small space above Objects & Elements in Al Quoz, and can comfortably accommodate six students per kilim workshop.
Iranian kilim expert Mady Soltani runs the class and starts off by explaining the difference between kilims and carpets (kilims use a flat weave, whereas carpets require knotted strands, which form a pile). Native to this region, Mady says the term ‘kilim’ is a Persian word, which means ‘to spread roughly’.
‘It is difficult to determine when and where kilim weaving originates, but it was a common technique employed by nomadic tribes across Asia, the Middle East, weavers in Turkey, parts of Eastern Europe and the Balkans,’ she says. ‘The kilim is very free-hand, two people can do the same design and it will not look the same.’
She introduces us to our tools, which include the loom that forms the kilim, a shuttle (a flat-like needle similar to an envelope opener) and a metal brush to flatten the threads you have sewn. The process is simple. Taking two strands from the loom, which is not unlike a harp, you go along threading the yarn through every other two strands. The process is very calming and soon enough the ladies around me are positioning it as a new form of therapy. ‘Keep Calm and Kilim On’ is thrown around the room as we giggle, all the while diligently concentrating on our looms.
The vibe at The Sewing Parlour is warm and at one stage Paula pops some biscuits on the table. ‘Hob Nobs help you concentrate,’ she smirks before offering tea. As we all agree kilim-weaving has a calming effect, Mady reveals that kilim-makers have been asked to work with inmates in prison to help rehabilitate them.
While we loom on, for two hours all the stresses from the day dissolve and I concentrate only on the threading and loom in front of me. It seems I’m not alone.
‘Creative activities have a therapeutic effect,’ says Tsui. ‘When you craft you are focused on what you are making and your worries melt away, enriching your mental well-being,’ she says. ‘When you learn how things are made it can help you to see a connection between making a product yourself and what you see in a store or at a craft market.’
When the class is over I’ve weaved a couple of lines of kilim, with much praise from Mady, and have even learnt how to make dot patterns and a flower with six petals. But most of all, I’ve enjoyed the delightful banter and escape from the office. ‘I believe carpet weaving is like a journey,’ says Mady. ‘Once started, the experiences are rewarding.’
Dhs1,500. Every Monday 10am-2pm, from Monday May 27. The course runs for ten weeks. Students are encouraged to continue to weave at home and can do so with a deposit of Dhs1,000 for the loom and tools, refundable upon completion of the class and return. Weavers can also make up their time at SEWcial Thursdays. Dhs50 drop-in fee for tea, cake and company. 10am-4.30pm.