One of the few surviving traditional crafts in Vigan is Abel-weaving . Historically, the high demand for the famous handwoven abel Iloco nearly killed the Spanish weaving industry during the galleon trade era. At least three barangays in the city still have abel-weavers, best-known of which is Barangay Camangaan as it produces much of the local abel products available in Vigan’s souvenir shops located along the Crisologo Street and the Vigan Public Market. The other two barangays with abel-weavers are Mindoro and San Pedro.
Abel-weaving involves the use of a wooden handloom and other accessories. The wooden handloom was the equivalent of a sewing machine in the past, and it produced most of the fabrics used in the homes, including clothes, blankets, and pillowcases. The material used to make the abel fabrics was cotton yarn (sagut). As it is known, the northern Philippines, particularly, grew cotton plants whose flowers were then intricately and lengthily processed in the homes to produce yarn. On the whole, abel-weaving follows a very intricate process – from preparing and dyeing the yarn, to arranging different colors of yarn to produce the desired design, and operating the wooden handloom with the synchronized movement of both hands and feet. The use of the handlooms and other weaving accessories can be traced from early Spanish occupation. This equipment was used in homes to weave abel cloth for blankets, pillow cases and clothes. These crafts were said to be a major export during the period of the Spanish galleon trade.