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Lao Weaving + Natural Dyes = Hand Woven Cloth
At the start of every trip, I’m reluctant to plop down money at the first hand woven textile which calls to me. But here I was on my first visit to Laos where “Everyone knows how to weave but not how to survive with their weaving” (as explained to me by Rassanikone Nanong, founder of the Nikone weaving center) and I was fondling organic cotton and eri silk fabric. I willingly opened my pocketbook.
Five Reasons I Fell in Love with this Hand Woven Fabric
1. Hand woven. A hand woven fabric can have a color striping pattern that isn’t an exact short repeat across the width of the cloth, such as the arrangement in this organic cotton. Or you can create subtle nuances in the weft by blending three strands of weft together, as in this eri silk cloth.
2. Natural Dyes. Over forty naturally-dyed colors are achieved using barks, leaves, roots, seeds and soil to dye silk and cotton yarns, with only alum as a mordant.
3. Fibers. The cottons are organic and finely woven—perfect for clothing or functional home textiles of towels, curtains, pillow covers, etc. It offers a nice drape. The eri silk has very fine warp threads with slubby wefts creating a toothy textural effect. I envisioned it for pillows, upholstery, or clothing that begged for a bit of structure such as jackets, pants or skirts.
4. Local and Sustainable. The local environment is a top concern to Ms. Nanong, who established the Nikone natural dyeing and handloom weaving center in Vientiane on the grounds of her family’s 60-year-old home. She saw there was a way to use local, natural raw materials for both spinning as well as natural dyeing. Besides the trained dyers and weavers at the Center, Nikone also employs worm cultivators and farmers to grow plant fibers. In the surrounding ten villages, she works with over eighty weavers who work from their homes.
5. Heritage. Descending from a line of skilled weavers, Ms. Nanong was determined to encourage the continuity of Lao traditional textile skills, techniques, designs and motifs by supporting women who still practiced weaving as part of their daily lives. She saw how synthetic dyes and cheap manufactured weaving threatened the survival of these traditional methods.
Through this social enterprise, Nikone has brought back time-honored and sustainable production methods which help to ensure a stable economic livelihood for the artisans. We now assist in this endeavor by offering these handwoven fabrics to you—all on sale this month only in the ClothRoads store. Not a sewist? Bet you know someone who is. Share this on.