There aren’t that many commercial hand weaving ventures left in South Africa, but if you ever find yourself in the delightful little town of Barrydale on the border of the Overberg and Klein Karoo regions (and which is known for mixing farmers and artisans), you’ll stumble across one such venture that is very much thriving – and has a pretty feel good story to boot!
The brainchild of Carol Morris and German-trained weaver Tivane Mavuma (who come from running running a knitwear operation in Swaziland), Barrydale Hand Weavers was established to create quality hand-loomed products while also serving as a way to uplift the local community through upskill and opportunity.
Spun by members of the community itself, the finest high-grade cotton is then transformed by a group of trained local weavers into all manner of homeware products including bathmats, cushion covers, rugs, table runners, and their famous flat-weave towels – all on rickety age old wooden hand looms.
In addition to their local storefront in Barrydale itself, Barrydale Hand Weavers already supply boutiques and shops across South Africa, while also having found moderate success in exporting their woven products to countries such as Canada, the United States, Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK.
Once you are done perusing their wares, browsing the art, and maybe sipping a warm coffee in the unique brick courtyard of their main shop, you also have the option of taking a drive down the road to the actual factory itself – a nondescript building tucked away in Barrydale’s small industrial area that houses all of Barrydale Hand Weaver’s prized looms and weaving staff.
It is super interesting to watch how this centuries old craft works and how incredibly beautiful pieces of patterned cloth are able to emerge through such not quite as simple as what they first seem looms. (And yes, as you can see from the picture above, if you’re cute or ask nicely enough, they might even given you the chance to have a spin on the loom!)
Well worth a stop and look see then.