Geraki (also known as "Small Mystras") is 39 kilometres from Sparta and famous for its weaving tradition. Even today, the women of the village are engaged in home weaving.
According to archaeological findings, Byzantine monuments and written sources, Geraki has been continuously inhabited since the Late Neolithic period (4400-3000 BC). The 282 clay agnithas (vertical loom weights) are evidence of textile activity during ancient times. During the Byzantine times, the costumes of the Geraki donors in the frescoes of the temples of the settlement and the Castle are also evidence. Among them, the painted depiction of a woven finish with knots in the church of Agios Ioannis Chrysostomos stands out.
Among the textiles of Geraki that stand out and are still made to this day are the kilims (handmade carpets from sheep, usually wool and cotton) which are mentioned in the dowry agreements of Geraki, at the end of the 19th century. The oldest kilim dates back to the 17th century (2nd Venetian period) and bears the “XGS 1686” inscription. Other types of kilims are: the corridor (long narrow carpet), the panda (decorative wall cloth), the tagari (small shoulder bag), the mat, cushions and women's belts.
Most old kilims stand out for their unique decoration, bright colours and elaborately braided fringes. Typically, their centre covers a central display with plant and animal decoration or themes such as the 'Tree of Life” or the 'Sun design'. It is, in fact, possible that the "Tree of Life" is associated with marriage and fertility. The kilims are surrounded by one or two decorative bands ("grepes") of different colours and repeating themes. The yarns were dyed using improvised vegetable dyes. For example, the dark brown came from the skin of the walnut, the red from the native “rizari” bush, the purple from the shell and the black from the melegos plant, while they also used various herbs, vegetables, seaweed, etc. The women made mixtures with materials such as vinegar, salt, seawater, and even urine to achieve the desired colours.
During the 20th century, kilim designs changed after being influenced by various embroidery designs as well as Greek folk art books. Thus, the "tile", "margarita", "byzantine" designs etc., are particularly popular. During the second half of the 20th century, the production of woven kilims was given a special impetus by the operation of the "Kalamaras" small factory in Sparta, which produced woollen threads and chemical dyes and then sold them in Geraki.
The art of weaving on the vertical loom (or upright loom) developed in Geraki both as a domestic art to meet the family’s needs and as a commercial activity. In particular, the weaving art of kilims in Geraki is vital to the inhabitants’ cultural identity. The knowledge of weaving on a vertical loom is passed down from grandmothers and mothers to daughters. In fact, efforts have been made to promote the Geraki weavers with awards at international exhibitions (Vienna 1873, Panhellenic Zappeion Exhibition 1888, Thessaloniki 1968). In 1988, the Women's Home-Technical Handicrafts Cooperative of Geraki Lakonia "Ergani" was founded with the aim of preserving the art. It is located in the village square, and its object is weaving kilims by order. Also, in 1999, the 5th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities presented the Geraki weaving tradition in an event entitled: "The Immortal Water".
In July 2021, the weaving art teaching organisation was inaugurated in the village, which operates in the Geraki Municipal Guest House. In fact, the infrastructure has been included in the National Intangible Cultural Heritage Index of Greece. Finally, the custom of the Geraki weavers takes place in the village every year, where the housewives spread the old woven kilims on the roofs and balconies of their houses. This custom is organised by the "Cultural Association of Geronthri" and started in 1930 when members of the Athens Academy arrived in Geraki to reward the community for the work it had accomplished.