Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Sew I travel: Hand dying and weaving silk in Luang Probang

I spent a lovely day on the Mekong River learning about dying with natural dyes and then hand weaving a small table covering/scarf.  My fellow classmates were Bec from the Blue Mountains of Australia and Theresa an American who lives in Mexico.  It was a great day of fellowship, good food and learning.

Ock Pop Tok started in 2002 as a joint project of a local Lao woman and a British photographer.  The organization supports local hill tribes to use weaving and dying skills. Our guide, Doua, was very knowledgeable and served to translate for the ladies who were our experts.  What I learned from this experience is that natural dyes can be very brilliant and stable.  Unfortunately none of the plants or trees grow in Canada.  Except marigolds.  Hmm.  The weaving process is complex and takes years of experience to learn.  The simple scarf I purchased would have taken more than two weeks of constant work by a master weaver.  What I paid - a fraction of what it would cost in the West - means economic stability for the artist.

Different kinds of silk fiber from different kinds of silkworms.
The thick nubby silk at the front is from Indian silkworms who do not eat mulberry leaves.

Colour samples.
Indigo on silk, indigo on cotton, sapon wood with soda ash added, sapon wood with rusty nails, sapon wood water that has fermented for a week, Jack treee, teak leaves, beet root (not the eating kind) and lemon grass

The pattern.
 One of the rows of threads at a time will lift the warp threads to set the pattern for the colour
Pretty cool wall hanging in its own right

Our threads drying.  Mekong River for the backdrop

Thanks to Bec who took some photos of me looking quite talented

My master quilter who made sure nothing went wrong.  She's finishing off my hanging.

Our class.  I'm calling my project "Lemongrass and Teak Leaves"

With our guide Doua

Some of the modern hangings using traditional techniques.
This is woven with silk organza - very fine fiber - with the designs in the regular weight.
Result, glorious window screen or room divider.
If I had a place for a ten foot tall hanging, this would have come home with me.

My project.
Three skeins of hand dyed silk thread
Yet another scarf
(aka mini quilt)
I have also managed to entertain the ladies in Hoi An who are hand making a couple of blouses for me because I took my sample in and carefully explained that I wanted them to sew some seam lines so I could cut a narrow strip off one edge and incorporate it in my journal quilt.  It was great fun and involved a lot of conversation and cutting of paper samples.

Kopchai lai lai
(Thank you very much)

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