Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Inabel Blankets

Handloom abel weaving is a process where thread that makes up the warp and weft are interwoven in an upright wooden handloom (pag-ablan) by one or two weavers. Ilocano blankets or Ilocos blankets (also called inabel) are made from yarns of cotton, polyester, acrylic and rayon. The different colored yarns are arranged in a wooden handloom (pag-ablan) to create varied and unique designs. The process is intricate and labor-intensive so weavers must master synchronizing the movements of their hands and feet to properly use the wooden handloom.

Not many people know that the century-old tradition of weaving wider Ilocano handloom-woven blankets is produced in Bangar, a sleepy town in La Union (Northern Philippines). For many years, our town has been the main producer and supplier of these inabel blankets and has been known to be the weaving center of Ilocandia. Wholesalers from other regions come to our town and buy these handwoven pieces.

With the ready availability of cheap machine-made fabrics and the migration of the youth away from Bangar, the abel tradition is in danger of dying out and that makes me sad most of the time. I really can't blame them because the pay is really low compared to the work involved. There are some loom operators who offer fair wages to their weavers but not everyone of them :(

Late last year, I put up an online store selling our handloom-woven products. I was so thrilled when I got an inquiry for the first time! That first buyer was from Laguna. I hope to meet wholesalers and retailers thru my online store. It is my dream to keep this craft alive and for people to know that these handmade blankets are produced in Bangar, La Union. Of course, my prices are higher because I don't haggle these handwoven pieces from the source. When I buy directly from the weavers, I offer higher buying price. When I buy from the loom operators, I offer additional incentive to the ones who worked for that inabel piece. Aside from that, me and my team also do quality control which is very important for any handwoven product.

By the way, aside from adult blankets and bed sheets, hand woven bath and hand/kitchen towels, shawls, pillowcases, we also have baby blankets, woven wraps and yoga towels.

Balay ti Abel also carries other types of inabel products from the different parts of Ilocos. We also have the famous penilian abel iloco fabric which can be made into clothing, table covers, bed runners, curtains, pouches and bags, material for footwear etc.

Before I forget, let's just make a distinction between the two italicized words here because they are used interchangeably: abel is the Ilocano term that refers to the process of weaving, while inabel is the final woven product.

We, at Balay ti Abel, continue to introduce modern design with age old production techniques, partnering with incredible and talented loom owners and weavers of our town and in the Ilocos region to revive and promote the beauty of abel weaving. When you choose inabel items, you not only receive a beautiful handwoven product, you know you have directly empowered and supported the communities of people who have lovingly produced each piece.

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