Making of: Phrae Wa Weaving, Thailand
Words & photos by Magali An Berthon
Located in Thailand’s northeastern Isaan region, close to the Lao border, Kalasin province is the only place where you can find a distinctive style of Thai silk weaving known as Phrae Wa. Phrae Wa is made exclusively by the Phu Tai community. Women wear the designs in various ways: as scarves, sarongs or belts. Sometimes pieces of hand-woven fabric are used to adorn shirt collars and sleeves. Wraparound skirtsare woven with the ikat technique known as mudmee in Thai and are decorated with a striped border. The traditional shawl, Pha Phrae Wa, is divided into two sections: the main part is in brocade (Lai Lak) and the edge is a thin striped pattern known as Lai Thaep. It is worn asymmetrically, draped over one shoulder and tied at the back.
Silk yarns for Phrae Wa are coloured with natural dyes. Organic lacquer dye extracted from lac insect increment gives Phrae Wa textiles their distinctive red colour. The Phrae Wa brocade technique uses hand-woven silk yarns to form additional wefts, creating patterns that contrast with the red textile canvas. Each piece of cloth contains up to a dozen different patterns, each expressing different beliefs. For example, the snakemotif, lai nak, represents the ancestors. Phu Tai women continue to wear traditional dress during ceremonies and festivities. The Phrae Wa Silk Festival is held annually in Kalasin to pay tribute to Her Majesty the Queen Sirikit and give thanks for her commitment to promoting this textile art. View the full article on Tissus & Artisans Du Monde.