Woven With Love
by Andrea Johnson
Myanmar villagers take pride in having their dedicated daughters weave textiles on traditional looms. Through lessons passed down from her mother and grandmother, a village daughter masters the art of making natural dye. Although chemical dyes are largely available, they still prefer traditional dyeing that reflects their textile authenticity. Known for their soft and gentle hands, many textile shop owners hire young girls to weave these fragile textiles, as their hands are still not roughened by house chores.
As one of Myanmar’s iconic textiles, one can only find lotus woven products in Inle Lake, Shan State. The material of lotus silk is unlike any other. It is known for its versatile functions, which the wearer will be kept warm in the cold weather, and cool when it is hot. It also never wrinkles. For decades, women of Inle weave lotus fiber into scarves and garments using traditional looms using knowledge and skill passed down by their ancestors and remembered by heart. The result? An elegant piece of handwoven lotus fibre fabric that is smooth and soft to the touch.
The process of weaving this fine piece of art is complex and time-consuming — it takes up to an entire day to complete a single scarf. This exotic textile can be sold at a very high price, depending on its quality and detail.
Lotus silk is not only a precious heritage that makes up part of Myanmar’s identity, but it also holds a traditional value to the people of Inle. Weavers believe that wearing lotus fabric wards off bad elements and brings good luck.
Myanmar silk is one of the finest in the world, and it is the major profession of Amarapura people in Mandalay. Silk scarves are usually associated with luxury, thus are sold at a high price. Visitors to Myanmar also seek to buy Myanmar silk scarves as souvenirs due to its high quality and detailed design and intricate patterns.
The people of Amarapura take pride in silk weaving as it involves a great amount of effort to produce a single piece. Everything requires precision and patience. The amount of silk thread must be carefully measured and wound together — any uneven thread would make the design look rough and inconsistent. These threads are then attached to bobbins on a traditional loom, and the weaving process begins. Some high-quality scarves require up to 300 bobbins and the finest silk threads in a single loom. This work of art is definitely not for one with a short temper.
Keeping Traditions Alive
These exotic products are some of Myanmar’s greatest cultural treasures. In 2018, several organizations and enterprises have come together to conserve the textile tradition. Through this movement, the nation’s textile industry will grow locally and internationally to contribute to the global market share. The good news is, training will be provided to sharpen the rare and sought-after skill of local weavers so they can generate more income.
Myanmar’s textiles are simply gorgeous. They represent the nation’s long-running and authentic heritage that goes around for decades. Home to 135 indigenous groups, textile designs, and patterns in each region can be different, and most are still made by hand until today. Visit Myanmar, witness the convoluted art made easy by the locals and make sure to buy one rare piece for yourself!