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Artisans from Myanmar

Artisans from Myanmar

Myanmar has a strong tradition of weaving. Its many artisans have been long making the most beautiful handwoven silk fabrics and are also well known for their complex handwoven tribal cottons.

One form of weaving is entirely unique to Myanmar: weaving with so-called lotus silk. Inle Lake is the only region in the world where lotus silk is being produced. Artisans extract the delicate fibres from the lotus stem and reel them into a thin thread. The fibres of five long lotus stems will produce about fifty centimetres of lotus silk thread. A labour intensive process that results in an extremely rare and exclusive fabric.

Lotus flower in Myanmar
Lotus flower in Inle Lake - Myanmar

The lotus flower has great significance to the people of Myanmar. This beautiful holy flower is the Buddhist symbol for purification of the spirit. People even claim that wearing lotus silk will make you feel calm and meditative.

Lotus silk originated one hundred years ago when a girl plucked a lotus flower in Inle Lake to offer at the local Buddhist pagoda. She noticed the thin fibre coming out of the stem and decided to reel it into a thread and weave a robe for her favourite monk. Today this tradition is still very much alive in the region of Inle Lake.

Artisan is making lotus silk
Artisan is making lotus silk

A few kilometres from the lake, on top of a mountain, a weaving school is located. At this school underprivileged girls from sixteen years onwards can follow an intensive training for one or more years. De girls already learnt how to weave from their mothers and grandmothers living in the villages on and around the lake.

At this school however the girls can improve their skills and learn how to weave with lotus silk and how to make intricately patterned ikat fabrics. They also learn how to make natural dye and create the most beautiful colours. Their wish: to start a shop or workshop of their own.

Weaving of a lotus silk scarf
A student is weaving a lotus silk scarf

The weaving school is run by master weaver Khin Win Kye. She and her husband are from the north of the country but came to the Inle Lake region to help set up the school. Daw Khin Win Kye teaches the grils all there is to know about weaving and her husband is specialised in creating natural dyes.

How to make natural dye
Daw Khin Win Kye is teaching her pupils

Student creates natural dye
A student creates her own natural dye

The weaving school exists by donations from non-governmental organisations. The girls don't have to pay a tuition fee and live on the school premises.

Besides (lotus) silk Myanmar is also famous for it intricately handwoven cottons. Men, women and children still wear traditional sarongs, called longyi. Although men wear simple chequered sarongs, those of the women look extraordinary with bright colours and complex patterns showing from what region they are coming from.

Cotton is strong and cheaper than silk. The vast majority of people in Myanmar prefers to wear cotton for every day life. They only wear silk on special Buddhist Days and other rare events such as a wedding.

The Padaung people are one of the many minority tribes in Myanmar. Padaung women are known for weaving on back-strap looms. They tie one side of the loom to a pole and the other side to their back. Sitting on the floor they create fabulous cotton scarves.

Padaung artisan is weaving a cotton scarf
Padaung artisan is weaving a cotton scarf

Counting Flowers offers unique handwoven scarves from Myanmar: scarves from lotus silk, scarves from 'regular' silk and cotton scarves.

Our collection from Myanmar will be supplemented with beautiful handwoven and batik sarongs in October 2013.

Visit the scarves from the artisans from Myanmar.

The production of lotus silk
Lotus silk in Myanmar: cut the stem

Lotus silk in Myanmar: take out the fibre

Lotus silk in Myanmar: reel the lotus fibre into a thread

Lotus silk scarf
Scarf from lotus silk

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