Local cotton is grown and handspun into thread using a teak and bamboo spinning wheel.
The designs in the ikat fabric are the result of using narrow pieces of plastic or banana fiber to bind groups of weft thread which when dyed will resist the color. Here the tying frame holds enough weft thread to weave a skirt or "phasin" about 3.7 yards. After completion of the tying, the threads go into the dye bath. Complex patterns involve adding more resists to preserve a hue, then overdyeing to create multiple colors.
The stems and leaves of the indigo plant are chopped, tied into bundles, then soaked in earthenware jars to ferment. Snail shells and male urine activates the dye bath. The dyer controls the depth of the indigo blue color by the number of times the cotton threads are dipped—the more dips, the darker the color. This dyer is holding the weft ikat threads in the air to oxidize, a process called "blooming". She continues dipping until the desired color is reached.
Ikat Resists, Untied Threads and Threads Wound onto Bobbins
This photo shows the weft pattern threads still bound in the plastic resists on the left. In the middle section you can see some of the plastic removed revealing the white undyed areas underneath. Once all the plastic resists are removed, the thread is wound on bobbins for weaving (as shown on far right of photo). These must be kept in order so that the design reappears when woven.
Women weave on teak looms kept under the house. This weaver is working on an indigo-dyed weft ikat cotton "phasin." Traditionally worn by upcountry women, this tube skirt can be easily adjusted to any size when worn with a large fold in the front and turned at the waist. As she weaves, she arranges the weft thread at each throw of the shuttle so that the pattern design emerges.