Learning the Art of Weaving
Published on: February 15, 2021
Vana and her daughter visited a weaving studio in Bangkok where the owner introduced them to the beauty and benefits of traditional weaving techniques, even for kids.
By Vanasobhin Kasemsri
As a keen weaver, Miss Wiwan Lertpphokanont’s love of Thai arts and crafts took her to many parts of Thailand where she learned weaving techniques from many local families in their villages. She was so engaged with the whole process and with the end products that she decided to take weaving lessons from the local villagers whenever possible. In 2009, she decided to open a studio so that she could have more materials and space to work with. With word of mouth and recommendations from friends, more people wanted her to teach them her weaving skills.
THE HISTORY OF WEAVING
The traditional art of weaving possibly began in China. According to Lynngrayross.co.uk, archeological findings date back to 12,000 years ago, as fragments of linen and woolen cloth were found in graves in China and Peru. Each homemaker wove their own fabrics for clothing and tapestries. In the 18th-19th century, the weaving process became industrialized and weaving machines were invented. Cottage industry weaving ceased to expand.
Sadly, in many countries, traditional weaving techniques have been lost and for some developing countries, villagers prefer to be hired by weaving factories to earn more income. However, in some countries such as in the UK, schools have started to incorporate into their Primary School curriculum for students to be introduced to the history of traditional weaving and also to learn local skills of weaving.
Weaving came to Thailand through migrants who had moved from China and other countries to live in Thailand as Thais started to trade more with foreign merchants. “Thais had more opportunities to learn more about it from having seen the products from other countries”, says Khun Wiwan.
THE BEAUTY AND UNIQUENESS OF THE DESIGNS
What made Khun Wiwan fall in love with weaving was the fact that industrial weaving products had no individuality and no unique characteristics. “When I tried to hand weave my fabrics, I could see the different loose knots intertwined or the different patterns that came from using different types of thread materials woven into one and how wonderful they looked blended together. I also tried to mix the designs of the traditional Northern style of weaving to the E-san style of weaving and the products came out uniquely appealing.”
According to Khun Wiwan, the Northern villagers are good at using cotton yarns. They often grow cotton in their village and make beautiful dyes from natural resources. E-san (northeastern) people are well trained in weaving finer silk threads. They both use similar techniques, but silk may take more time and have a more intricate designing process.
She was intrigued by how the villagers can weave so beautifully and the finished products were so detailed. “First, it looked so complicated so I felt challenged to want to try myself,” she says. All villagers were more than willing to share their knowledge with her. As she met up with more villagers to learn their crafts, she became certain that she would like to introduce weaving as a hobby for everyone!
BENEFITS OF WEAVING
Weaving is not only for adults. It is an activity where parents can guide their child and it gives them time to bond. Shorter projects like making a small coaster are recommended for younger children who may have less patience to sit still for a long time. Even kids as young as 5 can weave a small coaster on their own without parental help. One boy was so proud of his work that his mom said he slept with the coaster!
As children get older, the benefits of weaving become more apparent, such as helping them with focus and concentration, training them in creative thinking processes, and practicing their eye, foot, and hand coordination.
I was surprised to see my 8-year-old daughter take a liking to this craft and could not believe that she could sit patiently for 2 hours to finish a small handwoven bag, which she gifted to me. At home, she doesn’t sit and concentrate on something for more than 3 minutes! When she asked to return to do more handmade projects, I was not reluctant to take her as I was keen to learn more about the benefits of weaving for children.
Khun Wiwan has taught children with autism and found they were very keen and that weaving helped them to focus. For adults, especially the elderly, she sees that this may help to prevent conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
THE FUTURE OF WEAVING IN THAILAND
Weaving has become Khun Wiwan’s life passion and favorite occupation. “I would like to help the Thai youth community appreciate the local arts and crafts more”, she adds. Many young generations of Thais have artistic and creative talents but have not discovered how to incorporate them with the traditional craft of fabric weaving. Khun Wiwan would like to enlist young designers to help create new weaving design patterns. She would like to get into sustainable materials such as recycled plastic threads and see how she can design lessons differently by using these materials. Khun Wiwan elaborates, “Eventually I hope to be able to see more Thai designers using handwoven fabrics and make big names for themselves in the world’s top arenas.”
After my talk with Khun Wiwan, my daughter looked up and had just completed her handwoven wall hanger for her bedroom. We both left yearning to return to create more artwork. I wish to thank Khun Wiwan for her attentiveness in teaching my daughter how to love the traditional art of weaving – plus the bonus of how to be more focused! I now have 5 items at home to proudly show to my relatives and friends. Most importantly, as a Thai, I am grateful to her for bringing awareness to the wider community of how important it is to help preserve the local art of weaving.
Find out more at loombangkok.com
Photos courtesy of the author.
About the author
Vana Kasemsri, a Thai national born in the US, has lived overseas for a significant part of her life. She is a BAMBI volunteer, and works for B Grimm Company, overseeing their charity and conservation projects. Vana enjoys spending her free time exploring Bangkok and its surrounding provinces with her family. She hopes to share her views and travel experiences with newcomers to Thailand and BAMBI members. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.