December 9, 2010

Book Review by Dawn Willey

Bedouin Weaving of Saudi Arabia and its Neighbours is a book that simply oozes with the author's long standing passion for her subject. The book's many colourful photos testify to the effort that Joy Totah Hilden put into discovering the rapidly disappearing and often secret world of the Bedouin women, documenting them spinning, dyeing and weaving in a desert environment as they created their beautiful yet robust textiles. Like so many nomadic people, the Bedouin are settling rapidly and the author also examines how modern living is affecting their textiles. The desert life that demanded items such as camel halters, bags and riding litters is close to becoming a life of the past.

This is a book that satisfies on so many levels whether your interest is in the Arabian Peninsula's history, geography, tribes, culture or textiles. having no real previous knowledge of this region I needed the assistance of the Arabic to English glossary and numerous maps provided to help me sort out which tribes lived where and which tribe was the one under current discussion. However, through the text and photos I was drawn into a fascinating world. As a weaver and spinner I was delighted that the author had persevered to find Bedouin women, both settled and nomadic, to teach her their weaving, spinning and dye techniques. Through text, action photos and clear diagrams Joy imparts much of what she learnt and now teaches in order to preserve the knowledge. I really feel that with the aid of this book I could set up a ground loom, weave some of the warp-faced structures and embellish the result with genuine tassels and stitching. Very helpful appendices even contain pattern drafts. Fibre preparation and spinning the Bedouin way are also covered in considerable detail. Language communication limitations and a more casual approach to the detail of dyeing by the Bedouin mean less information in this area, but is still fascinating. This quality book had me in its thrall from start to finish as a completely compulsive read.

Dawn Willey, New Forest and Online Guilds
Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers 236, Winter 2010, p. 43