Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Village That Time Forgot:

Thailand is known for its textiles. Southern Thailand produces hand-woven cottons while Northern Thailand produces silks.

Yesterday I fell in love with a cotton-weaving village near Trang Town where lovely cotton fabrics are produced in the time-honored way of weaving them on hand-and-foot powered looms.

Time was when each family had its own loom. Today, the villagers keep their looms in one building and come and go as they wish. The weaving is overseen by an elderly master weaver (a woman) who keeps all of the ancient patterns in her head and teaches them, one at a time, to younger folks.

It takes years to learn a single pattern. The most cherished patterns are the most difficult ones handed down through the centuries. The eye-hand-foot coordination required to produce even simple patterns is breath-taking to behold.

Scarves, bolts of fabric and hand-made garments produced by the looms of these skillful people are sold in the village shop. As you may imagine, after witnessing the process and understanding how the fabrics derive from so much artistry, patience and dedication, I had to purchase something. Well, okay, quite a few somethings. I couldn't afford the entire shop's inventory, of course, but I know I made a dent in it.

A smiling weaver allows me to capture the moment.

There are many stages to producing a finished piece. This is just one.

An unfinished piece still on the loom.

A basin of gorgeously dyed blue thread is waiting to be made into something beautiful.

Skeins of thread laid out and stretched in one step of the weaving process.

A woman oversees the work and checks it for mistakes. If she finds any, the piece must all be taken apart and redone.

A weaver's child wanted his Mom's attention.

This was another step in the process of weaving. The woman below skillfully manipulated these many bobbins of thread to do part of a pattern.

This is a master weaver whose motions were poetry to watch.

One of her hand tools.

Her hands had many jobs and flew over the emerging cloth.

The ability to handle up to six foot treadles at a time tells you that her pattern is complicated and that she is a master of the craft.

Two weaving students, still in their school uniforms, were working on a simple pattern requiring the use of only two treadles.

This large woven piece is destined to become towels in a high-end luxury resort. Wonder if the guests will even know or appreciate that their towels were made by hand and required hours and hours and hours of labor!

Beautiful ancient pattern once reserved for royalty (if I understood the explanation correctly.)

Lovely blue plaid.

Final product awaiting customers with an appreciation for something entirely hand-made that is still being made today as it was in centuries long past.


  1. Wow! This looks really hard. Hope the young people are able to learn all of the ancient patterns so this beautiful artwork is never lost. Gives one a whole new appreciation for "hand-made" fabric.

  2. i dont think i would have the patience for such a craft, i dont even like sewing too much. I have a great respect for their ability to produce such intricate patterns and designs, look at that towel!!!!

  3. I've gotten a couple of gifts from a Thai couple that works for us and it's always clothing that I now have a more appreciation for! Had no idea this was such a big part of their culture.