Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sitia Folklore Museum

It turns out that we happened upon one of the best folk museums in Eastern Crete while we were in Sitia. (Both of those links are to other descriptions of the museum.) When you come upon the museum, it's as if you're being welcomed into a traditional home...complete with high walls and an interior courtyard outside the house.
The museum, started in the mid-1970's, was created by a cultural club. They simply went around collecting donations from people in Sitia. Up until then, many people had continued to use the things that are now in the museum. There are several different exhibits, including a traditional 19th century working class kitchen, a bedroom, a fiber arts room, an upper class bedroom, and a display of tools for working, including displays about raisins, olive oil, and other traditional village activities.
The woman who spoke with us in the museum is relatively young, in her late 20's or early 30's. Despite the lack of financial support, she chose to move to Sitia from Athens, live with her grandmother, and help support the museum's mission. She was very impressive, well educated and eloquent. The details were fascinating...this is a photo of the floor design in the kitchen display. None of this was a reproduction--these artifacts came straight from members of the cultural club and the surrounding community.
The kitchen was filled with interesting tools for cooking in a rural environment, including a hand operated grindstone for making flour and a sifter for sorting it once ground. There were gourds for storage and clay pots for olives and oil.
Although the house itself was spotlessly clean and used as an exhibiting area only, you could tell that the tools themselves had been well used. There was an air about the place--it felt a bit like a very good housewife, efficient, clean and proud, had just stepped out. The linens were bright and clean, and the tools were all within reach and functional. There were no guard rails or ropes to keep tourists away from the displays, either. No one took advantage of this or harmed anything while we were there.
The textiles were all hand done in some way. There were heavy woolen coverlets and hand embroidered towels for washing. Women in rural areas weren't educated, so one of the ways they showed their competence was through a flawless ability to create beautiful needlework. The young women created a lot of textiles specifically to prove their worth for when they married.

One of my favorite stories, told to us by the young guide/curator, was about the process of weaving Gregefi (sp?) work. This is a complicated counted process which produces a reversible pattern in weaving. It requires a lot of concentration to do it right...and it's a beautiful technique. When a husband disrupted his wife when she was doing this counting of warp threads over her loom, she'd say, "What! Can't you see I'm doing the Gregefi here?!"
Today, apparently people still use this phrase in a joking way. When a man doesn't want to do something in the household, or acts as though his work is so important that he can't help out, a woman might say, "What--are you doing Gregefi or something?"
For those of us who get a little too absorbed in our knitting at times, this sounded entirely familiar!
The "weaving" room of the museum was so perfectly done--it made me long to bring people there and to use it as a teaching tool. Crete had small household amounts of silk and cotton for spinning and weaving, as well as larger amounts of flax and wool. There were small displays for each of these processes and each was absolutely correct and well done. There were displays of naturally dyed yarns, hand dyed and woven coverlets and other textiles, and even an area where silk reeling was displayed.
Crete is in an interesting transition period--older women ("grandmothers") still know how to
do all these traditional skills. Some of them still spin and weave. However, they aren't all that eager to pass along these skills, seeing no use for them in the modern era. Their children and grandchildren aren't interested in learning them. Yet, there are some who know that if they don't pass along the traditions, they won't be there for the future. It's something that's ripe for research, as the Cretan textile traditions are fascinating.
The loom shown here had an ingenious leather strap system for treadles. It would be reasonably easy and possible to create more string heddles and add on additional leather straps as the pattern required. It seemed like the original 4 now, 4 later version for those of you who understand modern looms! It's been a long time since I wove, but I saw the immediate appeal of this beautiful handmade loom.

Just as we were leaving the museum, the current president of the cultural club came in and met us. We had a fascinating discussion (she spoke in Greek, I spoke in English and the young curator/tour guide translated as necessary) about the Turkish influenced designs. Crete was first occupied by the Venetians and then by the Turks. (the Ottoman Empire) I've studied many of the Turkish sock patterns that Anna Zilboorg has researched,and gosh, I saw the same motifs in this museum! It was amazing to see the same patterns reproduced in weaving and embroidery.

Are you interested in more info about Crete? I have perhaps one more post's worth of photos. After that, I'll have to go back to "regular" life here in Manitoba. So far this week, I've picked eggplant, peppers, tomatos, swiss chard and cucumbers at a U pick farm and I met a family of new Iraqi immigrants there. I've also had several other adventures...what would you like to hear about next?

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Blogger Donna D said...

Wow. Wish I could go there. Fabulous. Thanks.


September 16, 2009 at 1:16 PM  
Blogger Donna D said...

And please post more about Crete! :-)

September 16, 2009 at 1:20 PM  
Blogger PghCathy said...

I think it's neat that you're able to find fiber people wherever you go! Very interesting.

September 16, 2009 at 7:34 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Please keep writing about Crete! I'm having a virtual vacation and don't want to go home yet.

September 16, 2009 at 10:32 PM  
Blogger Author Leanne Dyck said...

Did I read that correctly? Did you say you were in Manitoba? Did you mean Manitoba, Canada? Did you move there? Have you been there long? What brought you there? I am planning a month long holiday in Manitoba. I was born and raised in Eriksdale, Manitoba. That community is in the centre of the province in a region called the Interlake. It sounds like you are in the south of Manitoba. I enjoyed your prior post but here's a vote for Manitoba.
All the best

September 17, 2009 at 10:40 AM  
Blogger Author Leanne Dyck said...

I feel so silly. Now I see that you list your home as Winnipeg, Manitoba. ...but you didn't always live there. Did you?

September 17, 2009 at 10:44 AM  
Blogger Joanne said...

Hi Leanne,
Don't know how to contact you another way! I hope you check the comments.. Yes, I now live in Winnipeg. I used to live in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Before that, I'd lived in Buffalo, NY, Durham, NC and a few other places! Have a wonderful holiday in Manitoba--it's beautiful here!
:) Joanne

September 17, 2009 at 12:11 PM  
Blogger Cynthia said...


September 17, 2009 at 1:02 PM  

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