Celebrating Traditional Weaving in Bangkok

Budha Inmages at Wat PhoWe have just returned from a vacation in Bangkok, designed as a break from the pressures of work and the cold of winter.

We arrived on the national holiday to celebrate the birthday of HM Queen Sirikit, a strong supporter of textile crafts. Her Majesty is regarded as the mother of the nation, so conveniently her birthday is also treated as Mothers’ Day. It makes the holiday seem so much less commercial.

Sales of textiles from the provinces were held in major shopping centres to celebrate the event and to allow the Thai people (and tourists) to support the craft-based initiatives that HM the Queen supports herself. I came away with a haul of handwoven towels and a handwoven scarf.

We also went to a display of silk waving using the Isaan technique, known also by its Indonesian name, Ikat.We had spotted the display as a coming event in the weekend section of the English language Bangkok Post newspaper which gave the location as the Thailand Cultural Centre, MTR underground station exits 2 and 3. So we went to that station, exited at exit 2 and went looking for the Thailand Cultural Centre building. After much searching up and down the road we failed to find that building and returned into the station to try the other exits. It turns out the display was being held within the station itself.

There was only one loom working, but we got to see the precision of the weft tying, which was done on a wooden frame.

Tying the Weft in Preparation for Dying

Tying the Weft in Preparation for Dying

I need to research this some more but I assume the cloth must be a standard width and the tying frame designed to exactly align to that width, or the pattern would be all over the place. It really is quite miraculous and no doubt reflects hundreds of years of trial and error. After tying and dying the weft, the pattern makes itself. Here’s some of the cloth on the loom.

Issan cloth on the loom

Isaan cloth on the loom

This picture shows the weaving in progress.

Silk weaving with a dyed weft

Here you can see the coloured weft

The loom itself was quite simple, with just two shafts, but what more do you need when you have a technique that creates such a beautiful fabric with plain weave.


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