Textiles have played an important role in the economy of village life in Thailand throughout history. Cultural parameters demanded sets of textiles for various cultural events such as weddings, ordinations, Buddhist offerings and showing respect to the elders. These cultural beliefs preserved the high quality of the textiles as well as boosting the economy of the parties concerned. Textiles were collected in much the same way as savings accounts are kept today. In times of need, pieces were sold or exchanged and in the case of young couples, the production of the wife’s loom could subsidize any losses made in the agricultural activities of her family. Today weaving is a cash income for many Thai women.
Ikat is a process of “wrapping to pattern” the yarns before dyeing and weaving. The strings used for wrapping the yarns have to resist the dye and thus a pattern is placed in the yarns. For multi-colors, a process of over-dyeing and re-tying was done until the design was complete. The weft yarns are measured on the weft stretcher to the exact width of the fabric to be woven. In Thailand, cotton ikats are dyed in indigo for working clothes as seen among the Lao of the northeast, the Tai Lue in Nan province and the Lao Khang of the lower Lanna areas . Silk ikats were dyed with natural dyes giving reds, yellows, greens and browns. These were worn on special occasions. The Lao and Khmer groups in the northeast and the Lao Nampat/Faktha as well as the Tai Phuan/Lao Phuan of the lower Lanna are best known for these silk textiles. Today chemical dyes give a wider range of colours for ikats which are sometimes painted-in rather than tied and dyed. Popular patterns were lai nak (river dragon), lai dok keo (jasmine flowers), lai khor (hooks) and lai ta kong (lattice design). Designs for ikat pha poom were taken from Indian patola textiles.
Continuous Supplematary Wefts: Khit
In Thailand khit is woven mainly by the Lao groups in the northeast for blankets, shoulder cloths and pillows. In Lanna, the Tai Lue and Tai Yuan weave Khit for bedsheets, phachet luand (banners) and tung temple banners). Well known designs include lai dok chan (sandle-wood flowers), lai dok keo (jasmine flowers), lai chang (elephants), lai ma (horses) and lai prasat (monuments). Continuous supplementary weft is the process of placing a supplementary yarn into the web of tabby weave, passing from selvage to selvage thus enabling the use of a shuttle for the supplementary yarns. The result is a pattern in one color that floats on the surface of the weave. When the supplementary yarns are metallic, such as gold or silver, the term “brocade” is used. The supplementary yarns are placed into the weave by the assistance of special shafts that raise the warp to a certain pattern allowing the supplementary yarns to be placed alternately with the tabby weave yarns. Prior to the invention of the special shafts, shed sticks were placed in the warp to indicate the pattern for the supplementary yarns, thus restricting the repeat of the design to one repeat of the exact same pattern. The use of the shafts allowed for endless repeats of the exact same pattern.