An Iban woman devotes most of her time to weaving after she has been married. The reasons for this are:

(a) to ensure the family have sufficient woven blankets to be used as curtains to put around a corpse during a funeral ceremony when a relative dies;

(b) to ensure the family have sufficient blankets to veil an erection containing charms and offerings during the various major festival such as bird festival (gawai burong), farming (gawai umai), and jar (gawai tajau) festivals, as well as the festival to cure the sick (gawai sakit) and other minor rites and rituals.

(c) in order to have woven blankets to decorate a house whenever there is a big function; and

(d) in order to have blankets to receive enemy heads if their husbands have had their kills during war expeditions.

It is the aim of every Iban woman to be known as a gifted woman in the arts of weaving. They wish very much to experiment and invent new patterns and designs in their woven products, The women first learn to put the threads out in the dew with various dyeing agents such as dye-producing trees, the engkala burong jangit, oil extracted from pangium edule (kepayang) and roots of the annona reticulaia (engkudu) from Manang (medicine man) Jarai’ mother, Ragam. (Manang Jarai’s mother, Ragam, taught the art of weaving to Iban women. More information on this can be obtained from a book called “Raja Durong”).

There are various names given to the blankets woven by women. There are hundreds of types of patterns for the blankets which are named after inconceivable objects under the sun. The names of some of the traditional finer and more intricate patterns of blankets they weave are:

1. Lebor Api
2. Bali Begajai
3. Kumbu Muau
4. Bali Berandau
5. Remang Berarat
6. Kayu Betimbau
7. Bandau Nulang
8. Bali Mensuga
9. Bali Belumpong
10. Bali Berinjan
11. Bali Belulai
12. Bali Menyeti
13. Bali Tengkebang
14. Bali Kelikut
15. Bali Sapepat
16. Kumbu Rayong

The woven blankets used as slings with which to carry babies are:

1. Begajai
2. Leku Sawa
3. Manang Iling
4. Orang Chayam
5. Gerama Murong
6. Engkatak
7. Igi Nibong
8. Tangkong Sapepat
9. Kara Jangkit

In the days when threads were non-existent in this country, the Ibans planted cotton on stubbles which they burned after harvesting. From this cotton, they obtained threads for their blankets, sarongs, shirts and loin-cloths.

Nowadays, if we go up the loft of an Iban longhouse, we can still see a cotton seed-removing machine (not found a picture yet) and a spinning-wheel (shown in the picture above) which they used in the past to spin their cotton.


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