LONDON: ARABIAN PUBLISHING, 2010, DISTRIBUTED BY UNICORN BOOKS AND CRAFTS, HARDBOUND, 270 PAGES. ISBN 978-0-95588940
Bedouin Weaving of Saudi Arabia is a comprehensive textile and cultural study intended to nurture interest in an art form that is slowly vanishing along with the nomadic Bedouin lifestyle. Author, art educator, and weaver Joy Totah Hilden's 1082-1994 journey to document the textiles hat she loves leads her through language barriers, varied local customs, and suspicion of outsiders. A major inconvenience was the necessity of recruiting male drivers, as most Saudi Arabian women are not permitted to drive. Hilden traveled extensively through the Middle East to locate and often befriend Bedouin weavers living settle lives in cities as well as traditional lives in remote desert areas.
This book's first half examines the traditional fixed pit loom and portable ground loom. The portable ground loom greatly resembles the backstrap loom of the Americas and is the chief practical tool of Bedouin women weavers. As with other forms of indigenous weaving, materials, styles, methods and techniques are regional in nature, although the availability of trade goods and modern highways blurs those distinctions.
In the remainder of the book, Hilden discusses traditional bedouin weaving methods, showing finished items ranging from tent panels to saddlebags to camel harnesses. Excellent photography and illustrations are plentiful, as well as supply lists for weavers ready to dip a toe in the sand. Instructions are not this book's focus; it is, rather, an overview of basic techniques such as warp-faced weaves, weft and leather-strip twining, braiding, tassels, and joining the long, narrow woven strips intended for use as tent panels or as interior tent dividers.
Weavers of indigenous-style textiles or anyone interested in textile history will find this impressive work to be a thorough labor of love. Handweavers may well be motivated to explore Bedouin traditional color schemes as well as exquisite geometric design elements. Hilden's passion for seeking to preserve traditions dear to her is evident throughout as she pulls the reader along in her often frustrating but ultimately successful odyssey.
Roving Reporter Leslie Mitchell, Weavers Guild of Pittsburgh