The striped clothes

Past Chiang Rai, we find Maehongson, the most northern province of Thailand to the third haze. We travel from early in the morning until the evening on the steep and windy roads to collect information about the Karen's striped clothes.

Maehongson, located in Baan Pham Or Lor (Maesariang district), is a Karen village that has existed for 200 years. Only 5 kilometers from the district, the villagers are still practicing their old traditions and culture, especially weaving. A saying of Maesariang district is “The Karen are weaving to the Sound of the Salween River , beautiful natural Pagoda See Chom UengSae banana”. The meaning of Karen weaving can be seen in the weaving from Pha Mor Lor village. The striped clothes of Pham Mor Lor village are still original, like GeMeShaPho stripes. To make the stripes in skirts, bags and tablecloths, the weavers mix new stripes with the original patterns. So we can say they adapt the original to be a base for new stripes and create designs that become beautiful and multiply. The reason why we did not get that much information, is that we forgot to take an appointment with the villagers on the day we were suppose to be there. So we could not see the housewife weaving by the loom under her house!

From Baan Pham Mor Lor, we traveled for around half a day to MaeHongSon. The objective was to see the group that uses natural dyes for weaving, in Baan Pha Phu (Muang District). The village is located on the main road, 10 kilometers from MaeHongSon town. However, even though the village is near to a city, the villagers still live in same way as their ancestors. They rely on natural forest products like leaves, fruits and barks to dye the clothes. For example, teminalia leaves give brown color, tam marine bark gives pink color, etc… Combined with the natural colors they can dye clothes.

A group of women called, as the documentation reports, The weaving Baan Pha Mor Lor group , sells the products of the people who work in it, and also takes products from another village to sell. The group has to put traditional designs on the clothes, skirts and blankets like honeycomb stripes or solanum melongens stripes.

Buathip, a woman who supports the leader of the group said to us: “The majority of interested people will buy the clothes that show stripes and will cut the stripes that they like to show. The shown stripes will weave by the old stripes, for other stripes they applied from the old stripes.”

We were expecting to find the same kind of problem in Chiang Rai. We found it really hard to find the root of the striped clothes. Answers were hard to get, because the villagers usually learn generation from generation. They study since childhood, but they never learn about the meaning or the history of the striped clothes. One of the villagers said to us: ”Even if we did not know the meaning of the old stripes, we can teach our descendents to weave stitches that we learn from our parents also, but for the applied stripes from this generation, we will teach the meaning and the root of this to the descendents and in April a housekeeper group will teach the youth in the village about dye, weaving and stitching clothes.”

We traveled 4 days to get 1 day collecting information. The long distance and the wind maybe do not cover the cost of the information, compared to the time for travel. But the information that the two groups gave us will be worthwhile for sure.