The peasant bag (traista) is an accessory of both men and women’s traditional peasant costume.
These days, peasants wear their traditional bag to church, or village celebrations.
Before, when working the fields, or going to the peasant markets, it was used for storing and carrying food.
We wear it when we go Christmas Caroling, with a bottle of something in it, just to help us forget the cold.
The bag is woven on a 4 shaft floor loom, with woolen warp and weft yarns. The shoulder strap (baiere) can be a woolen twisted cord, or a fabric woven on a loom.
Symbols and Their Meanings
The motifs range from narrow stripes and geometric square patterns to phytomorphic patterns, in two or more colors.
- The X-shaped motif, representing St. Andrew’s cross is used as a form of protection, as it is believed that souls of the dead (strigoi) come back in the evening of Nov 30.
- The circle is the cosmic symbol of the sun, an infinite nature of energy.
- The square is an earth symbol of life.
Into the Artisan’s Workshop and my First Loom Weaving Experience
The black and white square pattern is found in a small village located in the north side of Romania. It’s one of the last villages in Romania where fiber crafts are a source of pride for the villagers and the houses are still covered with old wooden roof tiles (dranita). These are good hearted and hard working people.
Maria has been weaving traditional bags for 15 years. She learned it from her sister-in-law.
Maria was back from field work when we entered her house. She was a little embarrassed because she didn’t have time to prepare herself.
Two floor looms were already set up: a small one for the shoulder strap and the other one for the bag.
Instead wound on the back beam, the warp is tied in knots. Each knot is untied as the work progresses. She uses acrylic (pan) fibers.
After showing us how she weaves the shoulder straps, she invited me to have a seat at the other one, and try weaving the bag (the black & white square pattern fabric).
I was a little shaky because I never weaved before, and it really felt like I was doing something important.