Threads and Trends that Go Beyond Borders
These are the blankets that take the living tradition of abel weaving beyond borders
Traditional loom weaving in the Philippines is slowly becoming a dying art. This sad and alarming reality pushed Marga Palafox and her partners to go Beyond Borders in order to preserve the tradition of abel weaving. After a trip to Ilocos a few years ago, they built a platform with a mission to bring the traditional hand-woven blankets from the North to different cities in the country and in the world.
Inabel means “to be woven” in Ilocano (the local dialect in Ilocos) and is also used interchangeably with abel, the technique of weaving colorful cotton yarns by means of an antique wooden loom. Just like some of the weaving traditions in other areas in the Philippines, this technique is learned by birthright and is passed down by the elders to the younger generation through oral tradition. There are no formal technical vocational schools that will help one learn this technique. Hence, the survival of this tradition depends on a younger generation that practices, supports, and promotes the tradition of abel-weaving.
In the past decades, however, fewer people are discouraged to learn the craft for many different reasons. Their desire to work on other income-generating opportunities is stronger than their desire to invest the time, patience and skill required to take up the loom. Abel-weaving is labor and time-intensive — a weaver needs three weeks to set up a loom and another three to four months to weave an abel blanket.
There is only a handful of master weavers left in Ilocos. Beyond Borders Philippines wants to promote the art and technique of abel-weaving so the younger ones will be encouraged to follow suit.
Abel-weaving basics: threads made of cotton that are naturally dyed into bright colors and an antique loom. They say that the antique looms are key in producing soft Abel Iloko (or Inabel) that can be safe to use even for babies.
During a trip to Ilocos, Palafox and her companions (who became her partners) were alarmed that only a number of inabel weavers were left. She adds that it was also difficult to find them. Instead of being disheartened, this propelled them to put up Beyond Borders Philippines. As shared by Palafox, their mission is threefold: “first, to take products beyond the physical borders of Ilocos and the Philippines; second, to create designs beyond the traditional ones; and more importantly, to improve the quality of life of their partner weavers and help them transcend beyond the border of poverty that characterizes the lives of most cottage industry laborers in the country”.
Beyond Borders PH’s products were featured in the online store: Shop Seek the Uniq
They knew in their hearts that the only way for them to concretely help this industry is by raising awareness about it and opening more doors for the inabel products to reach other markets. Specifically, they wanted to make it more appealing to younger generations and more relevant to the urban market. They standardized sizes and created designs that were more ‘sellable’ to the millennial, thus, they chose color schemes that were bright and cheery to look at:
Beyond Borders’ product line up feature throws and blankets in bright and muted rainbow-hues
“We came up with the name Beyond Borders, because we wanted to break barriers with this social enterprise of ours. We wanted to bring the Inabel beyond the boundaries of the local region that it belongs to, toward an urban, even international level of appreciation. We wanted to also bring it beyond what most may see it for – a souvenir item, but rather, appreciate the product as a part of our national culture, and something that they can actually use in a multitude of ways in their daily lives.”
Because of its durability and multi-functional qualities, its use is not confined within the bedroom or home. The versatility of inabel has made it possible for them to also ‘go beyond’ the functionality of these blankets or throws and promote its use as outdoor (beach) or picnic blankets, table cloths, runners, placemats and table napkins.
Take the inabel beyond clothing by bringing it to your home — featured here is a personalized placemat and table napkin
For 2017, they hope that their venture will reach more Filipinos who will support and appreciate the work of our local artisans. She says: “One of the reasons why we took on this project is not only our respect for the tradition, but we truly believe in the product. It is a good product, something we can be proud of. If only more Filipinos are aware about the technique, talent and skill that go into producing locally hand-woven products, we would have a greater appreciation for our own culture.”
Beyond Borders’ throws are ideal for gift giving.
Make a statement and get yourself an abel-blanket or throw in Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2017
How can we help them go beyond borders? By supporting enterprises like this, not only can you share the stories behind the inabel but you also provide an opportunity for people to learn more about the culture that it represents. With each thread that makes up the rainbow-hued inabel blanket that you bring on your next travels, you help keep the ‘almost dying’ tradition of weaving in the Philippines alive, growing and going beyond borders.
For orders or further inquiries, email: email@example.com. All photos courtesy of Beyond Borders PH