May 2017: Textiles of Siem Reap, Cambodia

June 9, 2017

This is the final post on my textile tour to Laos and Cambodia in January/February 2017.

Siem Reap is the place to stay when you go to see Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is both a significant tourist destination, an engineering marvel from the Khmer Empire and an extremely significant Buddhist temple complex.

For those who go to Angkor Wat (and there are busloads!) keep your eye out for pattern.

1a

However the reason I was there was of course to check out some textiles. I had heard of some places where textiles could be found and that there was lotus fibre produced in the area. I also discovered others while I was there. For those places off the known tourist trail, I would recommend that you take with you the address and the phone number of your destination to give to a tuk tuk driver. Our driver was very obliging and willing to find out where these places were, often with a group discussion with a group of drivers. However we did also end up in interesting places.

A new and little known gem of a museum is the MGC Asian Traditional Textiles Museum. I was fortunate to meet with Prof (Mrs) Charu Smita Gupta who is the director of this museum and has been involved in its development since the beginning. This is an extremely well set out museum with 4 exhibition spaces. The museum represents textiles from countries on the two major river systems: the Mekong: Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar as well as India on the Ganges. Exhibited are historical pieces as well as contemporary ones. www.mgcattmuseum.com

2 (600 x 450)

Prof Charu Smita Gupta with Libby, Truda and I in the entrance at MGC. Photography is not allowed in the galleries.

Artisans of Angkor is on the tourist map. It is also a destination for school groups and that was very pleasing to see. On site in Siem Reap are some working studios as well as the gallery. The work in the gallery is exquisite and well presented. The working studios included carving on wood and stone, metal working including silver plating, lacquer work, jewellery, gold leaf and painting. There was a very sad static display of a loom to represent weaving. The threads were broken and the loom looked as if it couldn’t even work- not a very good advertisement for weaving or for weaving as representative of this place.

3

Students watching stone carvers at work.

4

The loom at Artisans of Anchor- not a very attractive example of weaving.

However if one has time I would recommend a visit to their offsite complex where the process from spinning through to weaving is very well represented. It certainly wasn’t clear at the facility in Siem Reap that this would be the case. There is very beautiful work produced here.

5

Silk being reeled from the cocoons.

6b

Ikat being tied.

7

An example of weft ikat being woven.

8

The space housing many looms. It was extremely noisy.

The Institute for Khmer Traditional Textiles (IKTT) has a retail space and an area under the shop where the women gather and produce the woven textile. In the main, they are using natural dyes and producing traditional textiles. www.iktt.org

9

A section of the gallery

10b

Documentation of the natural dyes that are used.

11

Fabrics being woven with natural dyed yarn.

12

Complex weft ikats were also being tied and woven.

13a

Here the ikat is being rebound after the first dye bath.

13b

An example of ikat after several dyebaths.

14

Ikat on the loom.

I had heard about Lotus textiles before I had come to Cambodia and had spoken to Carol Cassidy about the yarn so some serious research came into play. There are many lotus farms. We even stopped and walked on boardwalks through the lotus.

We did eventually find the Lotus Farm by Samatoa, the organisation the spins and weaves textiles from the fibre. www.lotusfarm.org

16b

All stages of the process is well documented.

16

We saw how the fibre is actually produced. After harvesting the lotus stems are cleaned.

17

The fibre is extracted by breaking the stem and pulling out the fibre. Several fibres are then twisted together to make the yarn. Many hands are required to extract a small amount of yarn.

As each length is twisted it is collected in a basket. This yarn is then taken and skeined.

There were looms here but we didn’t see any weaving being done.

Closer to Siem Reap was the headquarters of Samatoa.

20

Here it was obvious that negotiations were undertaken for commissions in lotus cloth. We saw some examples of it being used in combinations with other yarns and test samples of woven fabrics.

The lotus yarn is extremely expensive so combining it with other yarns makes sense. I must admit that the yarn itself is not necessarily inspiring (it has no lustre) however it is extremely valuable because of the limited quantities produced. It is marketed as a sacred fibre. Originally it was used to weave Buddhist monks’ robes. Samatoa also produces handwoven silk cloth.

The following are some additional observations that I found interesting.

I found the contrast between the speed used in weaving plain weave cloth and the slower approach to weaving ikats of interest. This was extremely evident at Artisans of Angkor.

What is also of interest is the variation of the treadles to what we would normally use.It appeared that these treadles were standard in this area. You can see them in the movie. Here’s another examples at Samatoa and IKTT.

Note the use of two hanging devices either side of the loom that hold the shafts up while they are needed for weaving. Complex twills can be woven using this system. It require two shafts that are treadled in combination with extra pattern shafts. The two treadled shafts are behind the ones that will be picked up. The operation of this system can also be seen in the movie.

This is the final instalment of the textile tour to Laos and Cambodia. Meanwhile in the studio much has been happening. The next blog will attempt to catch up on that.

 

 


March 2017

April 5, 2017

In January and early February I went on a textile trip to Laos. This is the continuing report on that trip from last month. For this report, I continue to discuss the textiles that we came across based on the areas that we visited. Last month I began with Phonsavan.

Textiles in the Luang Prabang area.

Luang Prabang, the northern capital of Laos is a hub for textiles. Local and more distant ethnic groups sell their wares here in markets, villages and galleries/shops. In addition both traditional cloth both new and old as well as more contemporary designs can be found.

 

1

The Hmong are known for their wonderful batik textiles in combination with applique and embroidery. We braved a local village where we saw women and young girls stitching. These are very high powered saleswomen.

Ock Pop Tok. They have both a gallery and a “Living Crafts Centre”. Both display contemporary textiles. The Living Craft Centre also has information on textile production including silk production and natural dyes. There are also weavers and batik dyers producing product for the gallery. The following images show yarn and batik drying, and some contemporary weaving.

In addition there are facilities for people to attend a workshop. I took advantage of weaving a supplementary weft recipe. I did not need to pick up the pattern nor thread the loom. Yes, all I had to do was decide what colour weft threads I wanted to use and weave for a couple of hours

6

Weavers use the long box loom with a vertical storage unit. String loops are used to store the patterns. The stored pattern is transferred to behind the shafts and put back on a sword to select the pattern for the supplementary weft designs. Many string loops can be used to store very complicated patterns. My pattern only used 40 loops. Several hundred loops can be used in a complicated pattern.

7

One doesn’t need language to communicate with weaving. That’s my completed weaving hot off the loom.

And a closer look.

9

In addition to the pattern being used as a single supplementary weft it may also be used as a discontinuous supplementary weft for brocade.

On my last trip to Laos and Thailand in 2015 I fully documented how these looms worked.

There are several places that sell textiles. There are local markets of course but here are some shops/galleries/organisations that impressed me.

Traditional Arts and Ethnology Museum have some great displays of various aspects of textile production and a shop selling textiles.

12b

Gallery Asiama is run by Linda Mackintosh and exhibits traditional cloth. As well as having many beautiful old textiles, there were a couple of “funery wraps”. These wraps are quite different to anything else I had seen from a weaving structure perspective either on this trip or the previous one. I was told that the technique is no longer being done and were produced in NE Laos and NW Vietnam.

12a

The technique is either two tie woven as “bricks” or three tie to achieve several colour areas. I saw both examples. The designs were large in scale. These were also found in another gallery exhibiting antique silverware and textiles where they were referred to as “banners”.

Ma Teˊ Sai is run by an Australian who supports weaving in the villages and sells in her gallery. While the techniques are traditional her designs and applications are for the western taste.

Caruso Lao is a gallery selling contemporary Lao textiles, wood carving and turning and silver smithing.

Textiles in Pakse and Boloven Plateau

13

In a village just outside of Pakse we saw mat mi or weft ikat being woven. They used a box loom with only 2 shafts for plain weave fabric. The vertical storage is not used here.

14a

An ethnic village has been set up outside of Pakse that is aimed at the tourists wishing for an overview of traditional crafts from the Atapu region. Each area was represented by a house with representatives from that area often demonstrating or selling their crafts.

There were various warp faced textiles for sale which were woven on back strap looms. Some of these included that woven by the Katu. I loved the warp faced stripe combinations.

15

A Katu village. The weavers here use beads on the weft. The yarn may be naturally dyed cotton however I also saw some commercially dyed in brighter colours. Sometimes synthetic yarn is also used.

The process for weaving with beads on the weft.

16

As well as many older women, I was delighted to see this young girl weaving with beads. While her design is simpler, the basic technique can be seen. The back strap loom is set up with as a combination of warp stripes to create an overall pattern and to enhance the pattern of the beads. There is only one weft thread. This has many beads threaded on it. The shuttle is to the left.

17

When the beads are required they are counted off and woven in the approximate position. The weft is beaten.

18

Then the beads are placed in the correct position according to the pattern before being beaten into place.

Here’s a movie of the full process.

19

The Dream Home supports women who were victims of human trafficking.

20 (600 x 400)

Pakse Souveni had some exquisite mat mi.

Textiles along the Mekong River south of Pakse.

We saw no weaving being done. In fact there was very little weaving being worn. Life here revolves around farming and fishing. Of note we did see some fishing nets and baskets being made; all useful for this lifestyle.

Textiles in Savannaket area

Laha Nam Village produces mat mi in natural dyes. We participated in a dyeing workshop here.

21c

The ethnic minority group of the Phu Tai originally came from northern Vietnam. They brought indigo and cotton weaving to the area many generations ago. Around 1975 weaving and dyeing stopped because of competition from Thailand. In 1989 -90 when Laos reopened after the war, a government company was set up to encourage people to work again. The company is no longer working with the villagers and instead they have been encouraged to form cooperatives to weave and sell their produce.

22

Cotton is raised on the banks of the Mekong and processed in the village.

There are several cooperatives in this village and over 200 weavers. The one we visited has 22 weavers. Details of the dyeing workshop will follow in another blog.

Here’s some examples weaving that was produced.

We visited another mat mi village in this area. They were producing yardage of a standard size: 75 x 160cm. This was using commercially spun cotton/rayon on a synthetic warp. It was also typified by two weft rows of mat mi alternating with 2 rows of solid colour. The designs were quite contemporary. We bought in what appeared to be the communal shop where the weavers bought the yarn and then brought back finished product for sale probably to an established buyer.

Textiles in Vientiane Area

Carol Cassidy is a western entrepreneur working with the Laotian weavers to created contemporary designs based on tradition. I have visited Carol whenever I have been in Vientiane. As well as being the driving force behind the gallery and studio, she is also engaged as a consultant in Cambodia and Myanmar. She is very much aware of what is happening in textiles in Vientiane, nationally and in SE Asia. She employs several weavers on the gallery site.

31

Nikone has a gallery and usually an attached workshop. Unfortunately the weaving workshop was closed due to flooding. She has also developed a range of textiles for sale in Europe and Japan. It is exciting to see that her daughter is becoming involved in the business and catering towards the Lao wedding market. This fabric woven with an ondule or fan reed was one of the treasures I found in the gallery.

32

Phaeng Mai- gallery and weaving studio. There are some delightful contemporary woven fabrics in the gallery. It was great to return to Phaeng Mai where I had studied last year.

33

Magic Lao Carpets is the first and only carpet making business in Laos. The carpets are hand knotted and are stunning. As well as seeing the finished product, we were able to see all the stages that go into weaving them.

34.jpg

Each carpet is worked on by a team of young girls. They work from printed graphs.

The silk is hand knotted around the warp. Note the line to check the pattern. Then they are beaten in.

37

The pile is trimmed with shears regularly.

There are several other galleries. Mulberries, which I had visited in Phonsavan, also has a gallery in Vientiane.

Some interesting bits and pieces and overall impressions.

38

This is how convenient a loom can be to set up. A weaver arrives with the warp all threaded through the heddles. All that needs to be done to weave is to put it on the loom, attach treadles and suspend shafts.

39

40

Often the very long warps (up to 90 m) for the supplementary weft weaving is loosely coiled in a bag and suspended from the back of the loom. In this case the warp has been wound on a board. This will result in even tension across the full width of this loom. Note that this warp board is tied onto the loom and not permanently fixed.

41

Bamboo stretchers are usually used. They are placed under the weaving, out of the way. You can tell on this weaving how frequently it has been moved. They are very useful when weaving weft ikat to keep the ikat consistently aligned.

Textile production form a part of daily life. Looms are found under the houses. Here chickens roost on the loom with the most complicated mat mi.

Many communities that are close to the Thai border have been impacted by the death of the Thai king. This is a year of morning. This has affected the sale of textiles for use in ceremonies including weddings. The village of Laha Nam has had a major downturn in indigo mat mi production. It has also resulted in an upturn in entertainment offered on the Laos side of the border with weekend tourism increasing.

It is sometimes difficult to identify which ethnic group is producing which cloth. At one gallery we were told that it comes from “the north”. This may be because a middle man/woman is involved in buying the cloth or that they are directing villages into producing cloth of a particular style because it is popular and readily saleable.

The issue of copyright is seen as a major one by many galleries. The best galleries aim at staying one step ahead of the competition. There are no laws that protect copyright.

How prevalent is handwoven fabric in today’s society? In general daily life women are the only ones who wear traditional dress in the form of the sinh or skirt. Along one road, I surveyed how many women were wearing the sinh as opposed to western dress. In this instance it was about even. It does however depend on where one is. Remote villages are more likely to retain traditional cloth and certain ethnic groups seem to value it more than others. Areas where there are government or public jobs often require women to wear the sinh as a uniform. School uniforms require the sinh to be worn though it is a commercially woven version.

44a

I thought this market we stopped at along the road between Savannaket and Vientiane provided an insight. On one side of the aisle was a shop selling western clothes while directly opposite was one selling the sinh.

45

The one area that still has high regard for traditional textiles and dress is the wedding industry. This will be the only time that men wear traditional dress. The cloth here exhibits a high standard of exclusiveness and workmanship.

We heard that the generation of Laos and International women who had dedicated their lives to promoting weaving either traditional or contemporary were approaching retirement with a lack of young blood coming through. This must impact on the future of weaving and textile production in Laos.

46a

 

DSC04144

I saw these two panels in the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Museum. They reflect the diverse attitudes in ethnic minority groups as to the value of traditional textiles.

The government will play a vital role in the future of textiles. It was very evident that Laos is undergoing great development with financial partnerships with China, Thailand and Vietnam. This is creating new jobs which pay so much more than textile rates. The rate of growth was extremely evident in Vientiane with high rise buildings appearing and in the proliferation of petrol stations along major roads.

The issue of the survival of traditional crafts in contemporary society is not new. As Laos moves into this new era of economic growth and the impact of the popularity of western dress increases, I hope that the knowledge and skills of those working with textiles will continue to be appreciated and for them to have a place for their work.

 

Coming: I will document the stages of mat mi, the indigo dyeing workshop we participated in and eventually a report on the textile experience in Cambodia.

  

 


March 2016 Part 3

April 4, 2016

In this blog, I record the actual specific of weaving and things related from my recent textile tour to Bhutan. This blog follows on from my previous one.

Yarns.

1

One of the most popular yarns is “telecotton”. It is cheap and comes in a huge variety of colours. It is most likely according to all the tests I could do 100% synthetic. It’s strong and weaves quite well; though not of course as well as silk or even cotton. As the fabric is very tightly woven, the handle is satisfactory. All the “cheaper” fabrics will be woven from this. It’s also what I used for my warp when I wove in Khoma. It will be imported probably from India (most goods seem to come from India)

2

This store has some silk. The colours are brilliant though finding a shop that sells silk is much harder than the telecotton. Here both are on sale. The silk is kept in plastic. We saw cotton also being used for weaving though we didn’t actually try to buy some so I have no idea as to ease of access.

2a

Silk is of course the most highly prized yarn and is used for kushü. Here are spools of coloured silk for use for the supplementary weft pattern threads. I must admit that I acquired some lovely plied natural coloured silk- all that was left in a store 750g. I’m looking forward to using it.

3

Wool. Yak hair is spun. The women will use a drop spindle to spin yak fibre. Here two spinners from different countries share a moment. We were also told that there are 3 types of wool: Australian is most preferred though it is expensive. Next best grade is wool from India and then lastly local wool.

Dyeing

While many yarns are bought coloured, there is some natural dyeing being done. At Leki textiles we attended a half day dyeing workshop. We were told that in old silk textiles the following colours were used: white (natural silk), blue (indigo), red (stick lac), yellow (turmeric with buck wheat) and green (turmeric and buck wheat over indigo). This is the oldest textile in their collection. It is over 100 years old and came from the oldest sister of the first king.

4

At the dye workshop we worked with 2 colours: red from stick lac, jatsho and yellow from turmeric. The following is what I observed and recorded. I have not confirmed details with any publications. I thought it was more important to write what was actually seen.

The yarn was pre-mordanted by boiling with symplocos paniculata known as Asiatic sweet leaf. We were told that alternative “sour fruit” may be used. There was some discussion whether this meant quince. The yarn was set to one side while the lac was prepared.

Using stick lac.

5

The lac was put in an aluminium buck and warm water added. It was worked vigorously.

6.jpg

The water temperature was gradually increased to hot. It was repeated as many times as possible till there was no remaining colour in the lac. As the lac got hotter it clumped together, ending up as a solid brown mass that could be formed into flat hard cakes. This residue was used for sealing wax. The dyer must work more quickly, the hotter the water became.

The liquid was strained and then boiled. Before being put in the lac, the pre-mordanted yarn was rinsed.

7

Some “sour fruit” (quince?) was added to the boiling lac.

Using turmeric

Put the turmeric in the water and boil.

9

This is buck wheat (sour variety) that is milled into flour and then blended with a small amount of water.

10.jpg

Once the turmeric is boiling, the buck wheat slurry is added and brought to the boil.

11

The fabrics and yarn are added and boiled.

12

In all cases, the fabric is allowed to cool down before rinsing. I undertand that best results are obtained when the dyed material is left a while and allowed to dry before being rinsed e.g. for a week.

Winding a warp

13

This is the most basic of procedure that we saw and is for winding a basic plain weave fabric and was demonstrated at Leki Textiles. Required: two end posts and two vertical posts in the middle. The warp length is determined by the distance around the two outside posts. Noe that they are firmly weighted by heavy rocks to prevent movement. The two posts in the middle create the two sheds.

14.jpg

The larger central post is used to create heddles. One thread (blue) goes through a heddle formed by the white thread. The other smaller post has the green thread looped in a half hitch. It is quite a skill winding a warp ergonomically.

Please ignore the sound on the following movie. It has nothing to do with what you are seeing.

This movie shows a friend, Bettes managing both warp threads.

 

The more complex the type of fabric, the more involved is the winding of the warp. We saw two different methods for winding a warp that included a supplementary warp.

15

Both methods required an extra two sticks. They will be used for both sheds for the supplementary warp.

 

Method 1. This method was the one that we felt was the most difficult. The warp was wound back and forth. The basic principle for the ground is the same. The two yellow threads are the ground and are used alternatively for the heddle and other ‘shaft’ stick, as before. The red thread is the supplementary thread and passes alternatively around the extra sticks. It is quite lovely listening to the mother and daughter talk while she winds the warp. This method achieves 2 ground warp to 1 pattern warp in this case.

This was the cloth that she wound the warp for. She used it to check her warping sequence.

16.jpg

Method 2. The warp was wound in a continuous circle. This is the start of the plain weave outside stripe. The supplementary thread has yet to be started.

17

The winding of the warp has been finished. It was too dark the previous night to record the addition of the supplementary thread. The supplementary thread as per the previous video has been wound around the two extra posts. The difference is that there has been no change in direction. This method seemed more logical for me.

18

I have used my sample that this warp was prepared for to confirm that 2 ground threads and 1 thicker supplementary thread is wound at the same time.

18a

The warp is wound up, starting at one end.

19

20

It is now taken to where weaving will happen.

Looms

There are two styles of looms in Bhutan: the triangular back strap and the horizontal loom.

The back strap loom

22

At Leki Textiles here are many versions of the same frame for the back strap loom. The basic framework is a vertical frame which has two sides. The two sides must be sturdy as force will be exerted against it when tension is applied. The two sides has a series of holes that match. Here some looms have a braced frame (blue warp) while another utilises the framework of the building (white warp). The one in the front was 2 metres high with the holes about 15cm apart. The choice of holes and height of the frame will determine the length of warp that can be woven. We saw variations on this in other establishments.

23

The warp is tensioned by body tension. One end of the warp is around two pipes attached to the frame (top and bottom). This allows for separation of the circle that is the warp. The third corner of the triangle is the ‘front beam’ which the warp goes around. This is attached to the body by the ‘back strap’. Tension is applied when the weaver braces her body against the loom and released when she relaxes. This ability to tighten and then relax is necessary to achieve good open sheds to put the shuttle through.

The following sequence shows how the warp is anchored in the front ‘beam’ to stop it slipping.

23a

Note there are two halves to the front beam.

23b

At this point the warp is not anchored between them.

23c

Once the warp is organised to her satisfaction and weaving is ready to begin, the warp is sandwiched between the two halves.

23d

The warp is wound around the joined beam

23e

And tied together. The other end of the rope is attached to the strap that goes behind the weavers back.

The width of the back strap loom is limited by the comfortable width for the weaver to work with.

24

In this tent there is a loom. The height of this tent does not allow for a tall back strap loom of the type we have seen. An alternative way has to be improvised to weave a long length.

25

Here is one end of the loom. At the far left the warp is tied to the framework of the tent. The height of the loom is achieved by 2 forked sticks which are the same height.

26

At this end is the weaver. She braces her feet against a board attached to the forked sticks.

The horizontal loom

27

The horizontal loom was introduced from Tibet sometime around 1920. Apparently the story is well known. A young man Sonam Dondhrup went to Tongsa Dzong, the home of the royal family at that time to seek his fortune in the king’s service. He became a skilled back strap weaver. Ashi Wangmo, the young daughter of the first king who was a nun noticed his skill and asked him to stay with her as an attendant. She had over 100 female weavers but no male ones. She knew that there was a different loom in Tibet and asked him to go and learn about them. He spent 9 months there but no one would teach him. Then Ashi Wangmo sent two sets of gift cloth to give the Tibetans and after that they taught him. He came back and made a horizontal frame loom, and taught her how to weave on it. (excerpts from “the Land of the Thunder Dragon” see reference list on previous post. It was introduced into central Bhutan by the 1930s. The loom I measured was 94 cm wide, 104 cm long and 110 cm high including the castle (top part at the centre of the loom). There are 4 foot treadles which are often not anchored to the frame of the loom. These are tied directly to the 4 shafts.

28

The shafts operate in a counterbalance method with shafts 1 and 2 being linked and 3 and 4. Note the rollers at the top of the loom that allow movement of connected shafts. There are two sets: one for shafts 1 and 2, the other for shafts 3 and 4. (I’m allocating shaft numbers by counting from the front.) When shaft 1 is pulled down, shaft 2 will go up and vice versa. At the same time when shaft 3 goes down, 4 will go up and again vice versa. It is important to note that the first two shafts ae not linked in any manner to the second two. This has repercussions for achieving weave structure. If the warp was threaded from shafts 1 though to 4, then plain weave could be achieved by depressing with two feet treadle 1 and 3 for one row and then treadle 2 and 4. This makes weaving the “everyday cloth” of the previous post very easy.

29

The other point of interest is the breaking system. Notice the use of 2 metal spikes with a bent end. Holes in the front and back beam and nails or in this case pegs on the inside of the top of the loom is used in combination with the spike. The right combination will achieve a desirable weaving tension.

Weaving equipment

30

The weaving sword is a solid piece of wood that has both a narrow and a wider edge. It is used to open a gap (weaving shed) through which the shuttle passes and beat the weft into place. Because of the tightness of the weave it needs to have reasonable weight to help pack in the weft thread.

31

The shuttle is just a log stick that has the weft thread wound around it. Here the shuttle with green thread can be seen inside the weaving shed.

In this weavers hand is a slim pointed stick used to pick up the design. It may be brass or made from bamboo. In following movies it will be seen to be used.

33

A temple is used to keep the weaving width constant on a back strap loom. Unlike a western loom, there is no reed to keep the warp threads spaced. If a temple is not used, the weaving width will gradually decrease. Look for it under the cloth being woven near the edge of weaving. The temples used are bamboo cut to size with two points either end. These points leave quite large holes along the selvedge.

Weaving Processes

33a

Many Bhutanese textiles have this chain effect on the ends. It may be one or two colours. It may be a single row or several. It may be done on a back strap or horizontal loom. In this case it is done on an open shed. This means it will only be seen on this side of the fabric. It is easiest to work with 2 loops as that will ensure one loop passes through the other.

Weaving with a back strap loom.

All Bhutanese fabrics whether for plain weave, kushü, supplementary warp or supplementary wefts require the ability to weave plain weave.

34

This image shows the two elements to achieve both lifts for plain weave. When the yellow heddles are relaxed, the warp threads that pass over the bamboo are raised, especially when tension is applied. When a weaving sword is inserted and turned on its side, a gap is achieved to allow the shuttle to pass through.

When the yellow threads are pulled up and to do this the warp tension is relaxed, the weaving sword can be inserted, turned on its side to allow the alternative shed for the shuttle to pass through.

35

The weaving sword on its side. It is in this gap that the shuttle will pass.

Kushü being woven

 

This movie shows a simple form of Kushü being woven. In this case after every row of supplementary weft, a plain weave row must be woven. There are several important things to note. The first is that the insertion of the supplementary weft is always done on an open shed. This means that the fabric is one sided with only the tails of the reads being seen on the reverse side as they are poked through to the back when finished being used.

An examination of a kushü fabric will show that there are several styles of stitching.

36a

There are two classes of kushü stitches. Sapma includes the filling stitches: A and B in the above image. Thrima includes the wrapping or coiling stitches: C (diagonal), D (vertical), E (horizontal).

37

In both A and B above, both have an outline and then the centre filled. The filling for A is achieved by picking up the motif and inlaying the thread, while B has a solid centre. Note on B that there appears to be crossed threads.

38

This sample shows how to construct both the diagonal and how to create stitch B. This sample was woven on a loom that Wendy (our tour expert) had provided. While the yarn wasn’t great it allowed an understanding of process.

This scale of thread also allows for the management of the warp threads to be seen. When weaving kushü 4 sticks are required to set up the loom. Two are for normal plain weave. Two extra sticks are used to raise all threads that will be used to work the kushü. A 6 warp sequence id required- 3 on one shed and 3 on the other. The threads for the kushü is picked up so that 2 threads are on the extra rod and then one dropped, for each extra rod. If you look closely at the above image you should be able to see this. The gap provides a space for the supplementary weft threads to turn and sit nicely (especially if there are 2 in the one turning point) and is a very useful tool for choosing placement of motif.

The sampa or filling stitches as well as the diagonal thrima are completed every row.

The following movie shows how to complete a horizontal row.

 

Here’s how to get ready to move to the vertical position

 

The vertical stitch is worked every 2 rows in the following manner.

 

39

These are two samplers. One with the basic stitches and half a pattern that I worked on Wendy’s loom and the sample that we worked on at Leki Textiles. I can’t claim credit for the whole lot, only the very top end: that was half a day’s work. The rest was done by a weaver at Leki’s. We were fortunate that they did some patterns as this will give us reference for how the stitches are used. The most important thing to remember is to be aware of what will be the next pattern row and to get your threads into position.

Supplementary warp being woven.

40

There are 4 sticks required for the supplementary: 2 for the ground or base fabric and 2 for the supplementary stripes. The weaver picks up alternate supplementary warp threads, constructs heddles for them and places them onto the extra rod. The process is repeated for the alternate supplementary warps. In this image from the bottom is the heddle rod for plain weave, then one of the pattern rods and then the alternate one. The rod she has in her hand is the one that will hold the pattern heddles. She will repeat it for the other pattern rod.

41

The process complete.

DSC02693 (600 x 400)

To weave, the pattern row is lifted and included with 2 ground weave passes. This as it is shown will achieve a horizontal row of supplementary warp. If a more complex pattern is required, the pattern is picked up from this rod.

Weaving supplementary warp and kushü together

The general sequence is:

  1. Pick up supplementary pattern rod and select motif with the pick-up stick. In this case as the pattern is picked up, it is stored for temporary use on an extra rod. You will also notice that in the initial stripe, she corrects a mistake. An extra ground thread had been picked up.
  2. Then change the ground shaft and weave.
  3. Select the shaft that has the rod for the kushü.
  4. Pick up the motif.
  5. Bring back down the supplementary stored design. The stored pattern is used twice.
  6. Change the ground weave and beat.

The following 2 movies show the sequence. My apologies for the background chatter. Most of it does not apply to this loom.

 

Weaving Yathra on the horizontal loom

42

This example shows the characteristics of yathra. It is a supplementary pattern on a twill ground. To weave a 4 end twill which is what this is, requires a 4 shaft loom.

But the inherent qualities of the Tibetan horizontal loom having 2 separate rollers means that it cannot be threaded as we would on a western loom. A reminder: on a horizontal loom when shaft 1 goes up 2 goes down. Both cannot be up or down at the same time. The same applies to shafts 3 and 4. So for us in the West a normal till progression may be shafts 1 and 2 followed by 2 and3 and so on. This obviously will not work. So the Bhutanese have come up with an alternative threading system: shaft 1, 3, 2, 4 or it could equally be 1, 4, 2, 3. The important point is that the back and front alternate. That means a twill progression can now be achieved by shafts 1 and 4; 2 and 4; 2 and 3; 1 and 3. For those that are weavers the following draft will explain the theory.

yathra draft 2

The supplementary weft needs to be added in.

43

The supplementary thread is added in the same shaft as the ground. This is a two faced fabric. In other words pattern can be seen on both sides hence it is inserted in the same shaft.

44

The same style of wrapping and twining as for the kushü may be used.

The background row of weaving follows the pick-up row. The pattern row may be every row and this will achieve a diagonal line or it may be every 4th row for a vertical line. A single shaft will be used for a horizontal row. (see above blue textile). The pattern rows alternate in the following example.

45

There is one remaining mystery: what causes the “breaks” in the vertical that you may have noticed in this and the above textiles. It appears that the diagonal line of the twill is interrupted.

46

This effect can be seen very clearly in this fabric on the loom. From a weave structure aspect, it has no answer. But look to the reed for the answer. Four warp threads ie shafts 1,4,2,3 are all placed in the same dent. The spacers are very solid bamboo. These spacers are what is causing this pattern effect. By the way the new yathra textiles are sold unwashed. These gaps may close up with wet finishing. But in Bhutan, how often does that happen?

The trip is over, analysed and recorded. The memories are fresh. It was an amazing trip. I have collected new textiles for my collection and for sharing with others.

47

My current textile wall. They are all there (nearly). There are 2 from Laos and 7 from Bhutan in all different techniques. I do like the fact that two of those are ‘foreigners’.

It is however what follows now that I am looking forward to. I did bring home a full back strap loom that I had set up in in Khoma with a supplementary warp as well as other loom bits. I will look forward to playing.

48a48b

 


January 2015

February 25, 2015

The end of January into early February was time for an adventure: a textile tour into Northern Thailand and Laos by Active Travel with Valerie Kirk. It was an amazing trip. There were 15 of us and we travelled from Chiang Mai up to the Golden Triangle and the border with China and then to Luang Prabang, a World Cultural Heritage town. I do not intend writing a travel journal. In fact this will be the only tourist photo I’ll share and with a bit of imagination it could be classed as textiles. It is just too good a photo opportunity to miss.

1.DSC00150

The Umbrella Making Centre in Chiang Mai is a major tourist destination.

For this post I will analyse my field notes and report and comment on various textile aspects. As a starting point, I’ll identify the ethnic minority groups we came across. I was struck by the many commonalities that there were here and on my trip to Northern Vietnam. In reality I shouldn’t have been, as the borders imposed on countries have little relation to the movement of people. For instance the Hmong in Vietnam are similar to the Hmong of Thailand and Laos. They can be picked by their very distinctive clothing especially those pleated skirts, batik and embroidery.

2 DSC00830

These Hmong skirts were in the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (TAEC), a museum in Luang Prabang. A museum is a very good place to research traditional costume. There’s a list at the end of this post for museums in Laos and Nth Thailand.

Other minority groups we saw included Tai Dam, Tai Deng, Tai Lu/e, Yao, Lanten, Akha, Lo Lo and Kmhmo. I must admit I found the spelling of some of these groups tricky as sometimes I hear them spelt differently and sometimes I’ll even see them spelt differently.  It is interesting to see how costume is evolving. I have posted the costume as seen on our travels. Of course a more elaborate and full outfit could be used for major life events (weddings and funerals etc). While full historical costumes can be seen in museums, I have recorded here ‘living’ costumes as we saw them.

3 DSC00441

Akha ladies are the most committed sellers. They will approach you on the street, in a cafe, at the place you are staying.

4 DSC00389

These young girls entering the village of Nam Mai where some sort of celebration was happening gave a new take on their traditional Akha outfits. There was lots of glitz.

5DSC00379 b

Yao ladies are immediately recognizable by the red pile and elaborate headdress . The flowers on the baby’s hat are to protect from spirits. Here the older children wore western dress.

7 DSC00256

Tai Dam in traditional dress. The heavily patterned skirt can just be seen.

DSC00244 (600 x 400)

The woven fabric for the skirt. The complex pattern is achieves by  supplementary discontinuous wefts. This is extremely time consuming to weave.

8 DSC00675b

The elaborately patterned skirts are instantly recognisable as traditionally belonging to Tai Dam. They are a very common sight and would have to be the most frequently seen throughout our trip. Quite often anything goes on top. The skirts are colourful and attractive and easy to wear. It is interesting to note that Loas government policy that ‘traditional’ skirts or Sinh be worn for government jobs and that it is in general encouraged for other work and formal occasions. As this policy is so widely accepted, perhaps using a skirt as a form identification is not a reliable guide. A question may be asked about the future of traditional dress for other ethnic minority groups and the impact of this policy. They do not have these elaborate skirts. Sometimes they are plain. Other groups also wear trousers as traditional dress.

You will still see the use of traditional dress. However the incidence of its use is reducing, as Western clothing is becoming the norm and is even readily available in markets. Sometimes there is just an echo remaining.

9 DSC00365

A Hmong mother uses a traditional baby carrier.

10 DSC00544

According to TAEC, the Khmu no longer wear traditional dress however the use of head bands for carrying heavy loads identifies this group. These ladies have harvested grass and taking it back to be dried, often on the side of the road. The traffic helps to loosen the seeds so that it can be made into brooms.

Sometimes you have to be fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. I am including the following as they were a way of getting traditional cloth out into the wider community.

In Chiang Mai we were fortunate to be there at the same time as the ASEAN conference, held at Payap university. While we did not participate in any of the conference, we did get to see a wonderful exhibition of textiles representative of the ASEAN community..

DSC00142 (600 x 400)

Again in Chiang Mai we heard that there was an exhibition in a shopping centre. What an opportunity to connect with the young and the general public! Traditional old clothing was combined with contempoary accessories. There was a sense of excitement and engagement.

DSC00208 (600 x 400)

At one of the local restaurants, Hive, in Luang Prabang we caught a fashion parade. The young fashion designer had taken traditional fabric and interpreted it into contemporary dress. The parade presented garments using very traditional fabric  and strong links to ethnic styles through to a range of very contemporary garments which had reference to tradition but with no actual ethnic clothing. The market was for both the tourists and new age locals.

DSC00820 (600 x 400)

 

I have found it an interesting exercise to try and assign aspects of textile production with an ethnic group. The following alignment of production and ethnic group is based purely on what I have seen.

Dyes and the dyers: Hmong, Tai Lue and Tai Deng.

The group participated in a natural dye workshop in Ban Phieng Ngam with some Tai Deng ladies. We used four dyestuffs: fresh indigo, teak leaves, sappan wood and annatto seeds.

11 DSC00304

Fresh indigo achieved green though a beautiful turquoise can be achieved. Colour variations are achieved by season, the addition of ash water or rice wine. We got only green as much as we’d have preferred that turquoise.

12 DSC00294

Fresh young teak leaves dyes to tan/ yellow. This was a beautiful mushroom colour.

13 DSC00306

Annatto seeds dye orange. The seed case is shown.

14 DSC00309

The seeds from the case.

15 DSC00311

Sappan wood gives red.

Silk handwoven scarves were provided for the workshop. They were pre-mordanted in alum (solid crystal) at ratio of 15 g alum: 10-15 litres of water. I decided I really needed to sample all dye baths so cut mine into four. The rest of the group elected to do various forms of shibori.

16 DSC00299b

The indigo leaves were pounded with a little water. The leaves were scrubbed to extract the indigo for about 15 minutes till frothy and strained. The fabric was added and indigo bath worked vigorously through for about 10 minutes.

17 DSC00320

All the other processes involved the use of fire. The teak leaves must be fresh and young. 20-30 were needed for half a pot of water and simmered to extract colour. The leaves removed, fabric added and simmered for 10 minutes. A similar process was done for the annatto seeds. The sappan wood was shredded and boiled for 1 hour. Colour could have been altered by using rusty nails or ash water. The wood removed and fabric added before being simmered for 10 minutes. Susan and I stir the pot.

18 DSC00324

One of the washing lines with our samples. After dyeing, they were allowed to dry before being rinsed.

DSC00994 pieced dyed scarf (600 x 356)

When I got home I reassembled my four dyed samples into a scarf.

The familiar blue indigo:

19DSC00644

 

20DSC00643

We saw a number of indigo baths and indigo yarn and skeins on lines. This was in the Tai Lue village of Ban Nu Nyang.

21 DSC00272b

A Lan Ten lady stitches while she waits for the indigo process.

22 DSC00700

This wonderful display of natural dyed yarns was at Ock Pop Tock. The colours from right to left were obtained from: Sappan wood (a) fermented, (b) with ash water, (c) with rusty nails, annatto seed, turmeric, jack fruit wood, mak beau, lemon grass, teak leaves (a) dry, (b) fresh, indigo (a) and (b).

Resist dyeing of the yarn. Examples of weft ikat were in museums. The technique is called mudmee (Mat mi). Contemporary weavers and companies are also drawing on these skills.

23 DSC00203

These weft ikat scarves were inspired by traditional ikat. (Patricia Cheesman)

24 DSC00631

In this Tai Lue village, hand spun cotton is being dyed in indigo as a skein. The pattern shifts as it is woven with at some points it being recognisable and at others random. Both weft and/or warp ikat are being done. It appears that this village may be supplying a specific market. It is unlikely that this style of ikat would be traditional.

25 DSC00464

In the marketplace it is possible to buy resist dyed yarn. I did see evidence of this being included as a stripe element in a more complex fabric. Again this would be an evolving development.

Looms and the Weavers: Tai Lue, Tai Deng, Tai Dam and Lo Lo.

The looms have the same framework with the basic operating method being the same. The difference is in the method of storing pattern.

26 DSC00255

A loom with a vertical storage system As each pattern row is selected, the pattern sticks (or strings) move from top to bottom or vice versa. Two plain weave shafts are at the front and attached to treadles. These looms are used by the Tai Lue. They are also used by western organisations and were in fact the most prevalent loom. The pattern storage system can be identified in the image as those long vertical white threads in the middle of the loom.

These looms are required to make complex patterns. A greater number of pattern sticks can be stored more conveniently than in the horizontal system.

27 DSC00788

A Tai Lue weaver holds a scarf she’s woven using a supplementary weft. Notice her heavily patterned skirt in a discontinuous supplementary weft pattern which would also have been woven on this loom.

28 DSC00466 b

The Tai Lue also use this loom to weave tapestry bands used in combination with complex patterned stripes.

29 DSC00338

A loom with a horizontal storage system. As each pattern row is selected, the pattern sticks move from front to back or vice versa. Two plain weave shafts are at the front and again attached to treadles. These looms are used by Tai Deng, Tai Dam and Lo Lo.

30 DSC00413

Plain weave requires just two shafts. The effect of this weaving is achieved by pure use of colour. Three young Tai dam or Lo Lo girls (The villages ran together so it was hard to differentiate groups especially when there is no costume reference) weave together. One weaves while the other two prepares bobbins. Then they rotate jobs. It is great to see the younger generation weaving though I must admit the incidence was rare.

31DSC00336

A Tai Dam supplementary weft pattern in the same colour as the plain weave. 40 pattern sticks were required for this pattern. There is also a supplementary weft inlay motif.

Embroidery: Hmong and Lan Ten.

32 DSC00366

A Hmong textile in reverse appliqué. This is a very contemporary piece but draws on traditional techniques.

33 DSC00351

The Lan Ten are very accomplished embroiderers. These coasters were very much aimed at the tourist market and seemed to have been made by a wide selection of ages. One saw stitching being done in the marketplace so it is an easily transportable technique.

Gold embroidery. In the era of Royalty, gold embroidery flourished. The start of the Democratic Replic of Loas in 1975, resulted in things royal becoming out of favour and the practice declined. In recent years it has made a resurgence with work being commissioned for bridal wear, dignitaries, buddhist rituals, individual commissions including art work. We were fortunate to see the work of Nithakhong Somsanth. He initially studied with his grandmother but has also several degrees from paris and USA. His work is extraordinary. As well as working in the traditional style he also does contemporary gold work.

DSC00881 (600 x 400)

Gold embroidery on velvet.

DSC00870 (600 x 400)Some of the tools of the trade. Note the piece of traditional gold work.

Other Textiles

34 DSC00472

This yarn is produced from Kheuapiad, a “jungle vine” in much the same way that linen is.

35 DSC00476

It may also be dyed. A darker, coarser, thicker yarn is produced from the Yaboi tree.

36 DSC00478b

It is then netted, crocheted or knitted into a textile by the Kmhmo.

Noteworthy establishments (in no order but rather as we came across them)

Thailand

Bank of Thailand Museum (Chiang Mai). There’s an extensive collection of Thai costumes and coins. A little known treasure even by the locals. Email for times and details: Jirawang@bot.or.th

Patricia Cheesman (studio) and Naenna (retail outlet). She has worked closely with local dyers and weavers to produce contemporary textiles of high quality and design. www.studio-naenna.com

Laos

Tribal Museum (Muang Sing) Opening hours were difficult to establish but a wonderful collection and documentation of ethnic costume.

Productivity and Marketing Centre of Oudamxay. A government initiative aimed at drawing people away from the production of opium poppy. They approach villagers to see if they would be interested in textile production and then implement. Great quality in textiles, woven bamboo purses and bags and products from the Kheuapiad and Yaboi tree. www.pmc.oudomxay.org

Ock Pop Tok (Luang Prabang) means east meets west because the owners, Veomanee Duangdala and Joanna Smith are from both. The studio has static displays, a space where weaving production occurs, teaching facility and shop. There are two retail spaces in town. www.ockpoptok.com

The Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (L. P.)is a nonprofit museum dedicated to the collection, preservation of traditional crafts and lifestyle. It is conducting an interesting interview project where local members in a community interview their own community on some cultural aspect. Great costume display. www.taeclaos.org

Le Pavilion de Jade. (L.P.) Aimed at a high end market, scarves and wraps are in handspun silk dyed in natural colours. They look “plain” yet definitely classic.

Kin Thong Lao Silk. (L.P.) Contemporary and traditional hand weaving from Xan Tai Village.

Handcrafts Centre of Ban Phanom (outside L.P.) No weavers were working but an extensive display of textiles.

Mulberries (L.P.) owner is Mrs Kommaly Chanthavong. She has a long time commitment to the production of silk and traditional weaving. www.laosilkandcraft.com

Kopnoi. (L.P.) Owner works with local artisans to produce textiles, accessories and homewares. www.kopnoi.com

A review on the position of hand weaving in the communities I’ve visited.

Because I am a hand weaver I am always interested in the position of hand weaving in a community. In Australia, with various institutions closing and courses being downsized, it is a concerning trend for the future of hand weaving. Both nationally and internationally (USA and Canada in particular as I have had contact there) universities, colleges and other educational institutions (and my past experience at Sturt is included) all show the trend for lack of opportunity to learn weaving. A comment from many guilds is that there are fewer young weavers coming through and fewer people wanting to learn. However I guess we do expect those countries with a strong tradition in textiles eg in South East Asia to exhibit a strong presence of hand weaving. The following summarises my thoughts on what I experienced.

The presence of traditional ethnic minority dress in both daily life and for the tourist does require the maintenance in the main of traditional skills. However there is some incidence of elements being able to be bought in the market and then assembled: base cloth, braids, embroidery.

It is hoped that traditional ethnic dress is seen to be an essential component in the celebration of life events such as weddings, funerals and other significant ceremonies. I have no first- hand experience of the extent to which this is true though I heard it mentioned. If this is the case it could result in the production of a textile with a greater skill component. However whether it is created by the person who requires it or by an outside source may be another question.

Museums and private collectors encourage the acquisition and thereby the production of traditional costume and textiles. Of course some of these are old textiles but there are also new being produced. Vicki acquires a full Lanten costume. (Photo Kaz Madigan)

_DSC7994 (Medium) (400 x 600)

While the Laos government policy of requiring traditional Sinh or tube skirts to be part of a government dress code may have a detrimental effect on some ethnic minority traditions, it does mean that the skills of weaving often supplementary weft patterned skirts is encouraged.

I am sure the use of traditional dress to market textiles or other ethnic goods is recognised by minority groups. This will continue to encourage its production. One catches the occasional glimpse of women stepping into their skirts as tourists arrive. Nor do the Akha ladies need an introduction when they approach you to sell. I am also sure that for some ladies what we saw them wearing is their garment of choice.

The ready availability of western dress in even the remotest of villages does mean that this has become increasingly the norm. A mixture of traditional ethnic dressed and western dressed women is common in many villages. It does vary between ethnic groups and between individual villages. Rarely does one see a man, a child or adolescent dressed in even an element of traditional dress. In all reality one cannot blame them for choosing to buy something that is cheap, very readily available and requires no commitment to time or energy and skill to create. Mass communication and globalisation has certainly impacted. The same applies to other household textiles. Chinese produced blankets were a very common sight. The readily available mass produced alternative textiles of course impacts greatly on the need to weave or use other textile techniques.

Tourism drives the production of a range of textiles including those woven in ethnic minority villages. Often in one village they utilise similar patterns and techniques though varied in colour. A visit will result in women bringing out large numbers of textiles. As we arrive they may come to greet us with either their bags of textiles or them draped over their arm. Alternatively they may have a more permanent display of poles to drape them on. A visit to a weaving village provides the opportunity to see weaving being done as well as an opportunity for selling. This has a double advantage as the tourist is educated in the process of weaving and its presence enforces the concept that these textiles are authentic and are produced ‘here’. I did note that in a village one weaver was selling for a relative further away. This may explain the presence of a textile that is different. A variety of textiles may mean that a form of trading is occurring.

On the banks of the Nam Ou River, this village is well set up for the tourist visitor. Most houses have a rail for the display of scarves. Weaving of traditional styled scarves is obviously a very profitable trade here.

DSC00617 (600 x 400)

Some villagers are more aware of catering to the demads of the tourists. Some villages provide rolls of hand woven indigo dyed cloth. This weaver in this village went one step further and catered for tourists buying indigo hand spun hand woven cotton cloth by the metre. A new product has been developed.

DSC00658 (600 x 400)

Markets and shops in towns and cities provide an alternative point of contact for ethnic minorities to sell their textiles and is easily accessed by all tourists, not just those interested in textiles specifically. One does have to be aware of the danger of not buying authentic textiles. Some imports are easily identified; others require a more discerning eye. There are even printed textiles that look woven or batik from a distance.

Shops and markets in Laung Prabang have a sticker to identify those woven in the area. Is it foolproof? One hopes that the market is ethical in it’s use of stickers.

DSC00991crop (600 x 371)

Some designers, international experts and organisations are working closely with villages to produce work for their outlet. In some cases the textiles have strong links to the past. In others the designs are produced for the villages to weave, dye or embroidered. In some cases the textiles are a traditional format, while in others new product is being produced obviously for the tourist market. Mostly they are using traditional skills as a design base. In some areas people are being approached to develop new work, potentially learning a new skill (eg spinning and netting the Kheuapiad vine by the government ageny:  Productivity and Marketing Centre of Oudamxay). Quality control is usually emphasised.

DSC00682 (600 x 400) turnedThis contemporary transparency wall hanging in Ock Pop Tok (Luang Prabang) has been developed for the tourist market. The materials include non tradional elements as well as silk. The transparency technique is certainly non traditional but the inlaid supplementary discontinuous weft has its roots in tradition.

In one village I found an anomaly. It was hand spun and woven and dyed in indigo. But there was resist dyeing after weaving /shibori tie dye style. I had not seen it before or later on. I bought it because it was obviously a product of a foreigner teaching a new skill. If the market drives textile production, will my buying mean that this new textiles will become more prevalent? The weaver and then delail of the scarf.

DSC00642 (600 x 400)

DSC00988 (600 x 400)

We did hear instances of foreign companies commissioning textile production. One example was for hand spun, indigo dyed hand woven in plain weave fabric for the Japanese market. The entire community was involved in this production. I wonder if any traditional textiles were produced here or were the entire weaving focus on filling orders.

There was several examples of weaving communities obviously working at supplying specific markets. This weaving group has ten looms and mass producing plain weave hand spun cotton textiles in various stripes.

DSC00525 (600 x 400)

Copyright is an issue. I saw a textile that I was told was produced for a particular designer. Later on I saw versions of this same scarf. This means that designers have to stay innovative.

It is an interesting point to ponder: How is tourism affecting the future of weaving? Obviously market demands whether for the locals, tourists or for foreign import will drive textile production. Demand for textiles will encourage weaving (and other textile production) to continue and will encourage weaving to be perceived as a means to earn income and thereby have prestige. Textile work does allow people to stay in their villages. It allows employment in urban towns. People will perhaps want to weave. On the other hand how will market demands impact on traditional skills, patterns and textile tradition? Some weaving techniques (in particular supplementary discontinuous weft) are extremely slow and require great skill. These textiles will also need to be valued for them to be continued to be woven.

Who are the weavers? They are women, in the main not the very old nor the very young. Eye sight impacts on the older weaver. I saw in one village girls of late teens weaving. This occurrence was so out of the ordinary that it was noted. Traditionally the young would have been taught by their mothers and the tradition continued. We spoke to one woman who was in charge of a weaving community. She has 3 daughters. None of them weave. They all work for the government. This is not an isolated occurrence. The women we saw weaving must value the ability to bring income in. They are encouraged because of this. Do they weave all year round? Traditionally the time set aside to weaving was driven by the demands of agriculture. They fitted it in. That would probably still be the case in some villages. One could also suspect that where there is commitment to outside organisations that this may be changing. Maybe the weavers weave all year. This potential change may also be supported by change in agriculture production: different demands, mechanisation etc. Change is potentially universal. I did not confirm in any village whether this was the case and how or if time spent in weaving has changed. This is purely my supposition.

Nothing is surer: textile production is dynamic and never stays still. We cannot expect what the villagers to have been producing 20 years ago to still be what is woven now and into the future. Technology improves. Materials change. Weavers want to perhaps weave new textiles. Values change. Communities evolve. Consumers want textiles of a certain type, whether they are traditional or something new. The outside world intrudes. What does the future hold for weaving here? I guess time will tell.

Next month: Weaving, looms and all aspects relating to it in detail.