Monday, 19 August 2013

Silk Weaving in Luang Prabang, Laos

It was great to have the opportunity to visit Luang Prabang in Laos. One of the things that I wanted to explore was Silk Dying and Weaving, a handcraft that is used extensively in this part of the world. 

Ock Pop Tok is a company that was set up by in 2000 by a local weaver and an English photographer. Their philosophy is to empower women through their traditional skills, as well as promoting the beauty of Laotian textiles. 

I started my day with a tour where women were weaving intricate designs on their looms.

They run daily classes so I booked into one where I would start from the silk butterfly and they would take me through the whole process of dying to the final woven product.

 the silk cocoon

 This display was of dyed silk threads and below them are sample of the flowers, plants and fruits that they use to get the various colours. 

The garden has a lot of the flowers and plants where they get the product from to dye the silk.

I chose 3 different plants to use to dye my silk thread.

This is the wood from the Sappan Tree

First I had to chop it into smaller pieces

 Then the wood is boiled to release the colour and limestone can be added to darken the colour 

 My 2nd colour choice was the seeds from the Annatto tree. We got the seeds from the tree, broke the seed pod open and placed the small seeds into the bowl. The seeds are then crushed in the bowl and added to a pan of water, soaked and then boiled.

Eventually I got my 3 bowls of coloured dye. The 3rd bowl has Indigo dye which is from leaves off the Indigo tree that are fermented to turn green, limestone is then added to reach a blue colour.

The result was 3 Skeins of natural dyed silk thread

The natural dyed silk drying, such amazing colours.

In the afternoon it was my turn to learn how to weave. First we started with winding the silk onto spools.

 This really was an amazing piece of technology all made from bamboo, wood and a few rods of steel.

We then moved onto the loom where I was taught how to use the bamboo pedals to raise and lower the treads and then thread the shuttle through. This loom looked out over the Mekong River so a very picturesque spot to sit and very warm.

 I was assigned a 'Master Weaver' who helped me through the whole process and corrected me many times which meant my weaving was not full of my mistakes!

I really respect that these ladies that can sit and work on these looms for hours, it is not easy on the body.

After an afternoon of work with my master weaver, I finished my placemat. 

The completed placemat from the weaving class

This is a piece that Ot, my master weaving teacher, was just finishing. She specialises in a 4 pedal weave technique called 'Lai song'. Certainly an incredible piece of weaving.

I really enjoyed my day at Ock Pop Tok and it is a great place to learn about natural dying of silk.

Thanks for the visit

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