Tuesday, May 22, 2012

S is for a spinning shpanyer

Bet you don't know what this is.
I had never even heard of it before I saw a man spinning it in a video demonstration at the Israel Museum.

OK! This contraption is called a shpanyer and what it does is shpanyer arbet.

This craft was a technique using gold or silver thread to create a complex design with geometric or plant motifs, woven at a special workshop.
The workers were called shpanyer machers.

Here's what the museum says about this metal-thread lacework:

Shpanyer is a kind of lacework made by winding metal thread around cotton or linen thread to create interlacing patterns. Though its origins are unclear, this technique is believed to have been exclusively practiced by Jews, who used it to embellish items of clothing--particularly ornamental neckbands for prayer shawls.
In the 19th century, shpanyer work was mainly practiced in Sassov, Galicia [now the Ukraine], and the products were sold all over eastern Europe and the United States.
In the 1930s shpanyer was brought to the Land of Israel; today the craft is practiced by a Belzer Hasid who continues it in its traditional form.

In fact, the one on display is an anonymous loan, "arranged with the help of a Belzer Hasid."

The heyday of the production of shpanyer arbet was from the late 19th century to the 1930s.

Several YIVO articles have interesting information and photos of the machine and its products:
1. Shpanyer Arbet
2. Dress of Jews in Eastern Europe
3. Ceremonial and Decorative Art

One of them explains thus (I know gar nichts about sewing so it is over my head, but I hope you get it):

Shpanyer arbet was created on a table that held a rotating drum and a wooden framework from which hung four bobbins. The bobbins were threaded with cotton or linen, which was woven to produce a cord. Metal thread on shuttles was woven across the cotton or linen. The resulting cord was coiled, following a paper pattern resting on the drum, and secured to itself.
The pieces were used to decorate articles of clothing.
(A post for ABC Wednesday meme.)


mrsnesbitt said...

We always learn so much each ABC Wednesday - now I wonder if I can drop this word into a conversation this week.

Denise ABC Team

Rob and Mandy said...

Sounds a lot like Spanier Arbeit, a job made by a Spaniard, in german. Or does my yiddish fail me?

JM said...

Is it somehow similar to what the woman is doing on this video? It's called Bilros Lace and it's a tradition here and in Brazil too.


Dina said...

Denise, haha, good luck! I would have to practice pronouncing it first.

Rob and Mandy, you're right and here is why (from the YIVO Encyclopedia):

"The decorative work known as shpanyer arbet has been translated as both “spun work,” derived from the Yiddish word shpinen, and as “Spanish work.” The latter fancifully implies a connection between shpanyer arbet and the craft of lace making incorporating silver and gold threads practiced by Jews of Mallorca, Barcelona, and Toledo in fifteenth-century Spain. Shpanyer arbet is similar to nineteenth-century East European passementerie and bobbin lace, from which it is most likely derived."

JM, your video is impressive. But I think the process is quite different from shpanyer, in which the whole drum rolls around.
In truth, I did not get to see the whole video at the museum. Next time I will get a place up close and look carefully.

Roger Owen Green said...

you are CORRECT! totally new word and concept.

ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Magia da Inês said...

Passei para conhecer o seu blog.
Gostei muito, cheio de curiosidades e postagens interessantes.

Black Jack's Carol said...

Yes, you were absolutely right that the Shpanyer is a brand new word (and concept) for me. It is a beautiful contraption!

Petrea Burchard said...

That's an excellent find!

NixBlog said...

Amazing! Had never heard of this before much less seen the contraption. But now I know how those glitzy decorations are made.

Dina said...

Magia da Ines, shalom and welcome.
Visiting your blog is a pleasant experience for the eye and ear.

VP said...

This sounds like something made up for The Hitchhiker's Guide to Galaxy, but I am quite sure you are telling us the truth...

TheChieftess said...

Fun history lesson!!!

chubskulit said...


S is for..
Rose, ABC Wednesday Team

Pat said...

Wow, that machine is really interesting. I'd never heard of it before. The lace, thread and cords made on this must be spectacularly beautiful!