I came from a family of seamstress and for us to have a fascination for silk fabric is not surprising at all, my oldest sister loves silk fabric, but I believed she is more familiar with the Thai silk than the Lao silk, I think Lao textiles are no less beautiful than the Thai textiles.
I recently learned about a company that manufactured Lao textiles through the Today Show called Ock Pop Tok, means East meets West. From their website, Lao textiles are still used in many aspects of daily life from ceremonies to the household such as,
- Pha Bieng Scarf for the upper body (used by Buddhists)
- Pha Hom Blanket
- Pha Sabai Healing cloth
- Sihn Skirts
- Pha Phok Long Funeral cloth
- Pha Kaan Head cloth
- Pha Phii Mon Shaman Cloth
- Pha Mong Mosquito net decoration
- Pha Khan Mon A love gift handkerchief
- Pha Tung Prayer Flag
What I find fascinating is their ‘Silkworms & Natural Dyes Workshop, Dye your own Scarf,’ this is on my to-do list if I’m ever in that area and if time permits. Below is the agenda for the workshop, and I found photos by annamatic3000, Anna Lee who took the class during her visit to Laos,
Spend the afternoon in a stunning Mekong riverside garden. Prepare natural dyes and dye your own silk scarf. The workshop looks at silkworms, natural dyes and weaving techniques. The afternoon’s programme is interactive and full of fascinating information; a unique and entertaining opportunity to learn about silk dyeing & weaving.
Meet the silkworms. First there is an explanation about the worms’ lives; where they come from, who makes silk in Laos and a bizarre list of facts regarding sericulture. Guests are invited to prepare mulberry leaves and feed the worms.
Below are the mulberry trees on a misty morning Vangviang Organic Farm, Laos. The mulberry trees provide leaves to feed to the silk worms, plus mulberry tea, mulberry wine, and mulberry shakes.
Dye your own scarf with a natural dye. After a brief introduction to the natural dyes, guests are invited to prepare a dye source. Indigo – green, turmeric – yellow, sappan – pink or purple, lemongrass – light yellow, annatto – monk robe orange, indigo paste – blue. After preparing the dye source white scarves are dyed in the chosen colours.
Below are Turmeric (yellow), Annatto seeds (monk robe orange), Indigo leaves (blue green), and Sappan wood (purple)
Try weaving & meet the weavers. After an introduction to weaving techniques guests are invited to try weaving and spinning on our demonstration looms.
From Anna: Here is one of the center’s weavers in action. There is an area with about 8 looms where the women are busy at the looms, chattering and laughing with one another while working.
From Anna: Believe it or not, this is how a pattern is recorded on a loom. The weaver designs her pattern here, by tying horizontal strings to select vertical strings. Those select vertical strings are, in turn, tied to select strings on the warp. An expert weaver would be able to look at this and see what kind of pattern it would produce.
Below are cocoons, and some luscious rolls of dyed silk.
Boiling of cocoons.
Silk threads soaking in the turmeric dye.
From Anna: Approaching the weaving village (Luang Prabang, Laos), we saw silk tapestries for sale.
The event in NYC might be something that my oldest sister is interested in checking out.
Lao Weaving & Culture Festival presented by Silk Moon Gallery, for those that live in Sebastapol, California.
It’s the details that make this experience special.
Did you know that you can eat silk worms after the silk has been spun?
Did you know that a number of the dye sources also make great tasting drinks?
On average a weaver can weave around 30 cm a day.
It is nice to see our Lao Textiles at the recent Seoul Friendship Fair 2008, photos by Lao Ocean Girl at the Lao PDR Booth.
My grandmother raised silkworms while my mom was growing up, at any given time a family can look after 10,000 silkworms or more, and according to The Today Show (Broadcast from Laos), it sounds like it’s raining when they’re munching on the mulberry leaves. They eat for about a month, then it would take them about 4 days to make cocoons, then it goes into the pot for boiling.
My mom told me that my grandmother quit raising silkworms because one morning, one of the monks came for morning Alms Giving and he said that he heard sorrowful cries every time that he passes her house, and he believed that it was from the silkworms because they have (had) to go into the hot boiling pot. I’m not sure if he meant the live worms only, or also meant the dead ones because Lao people believed in spirit, and silkworms I believed would have spirit as well. This might sound ridiculous to some, but to my grandmother it wasn’t, she felt guilty, and it must have haunted her each time she had to boil the cocoons to get the silk, knowing that the worms are inside.