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Lake Inle - Intha weaving

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Sylvia Fraser-Lu in 'Handwoven Textiles of South-east Asia' page 97 provides a very helpful description of Intha weaving:P97

"The Intha people, originally from Tavoy in southern Burma, who inhabit the shores of Inle Lake in the southern Shan States, are also notable weavers. The village of Inpawkhon is famous for its weft ikat-patterned silk lon-gyi, which are called Zin me, the Burmese word for Chiangmai (Plate 6). Zin me lon-gyi originally woven from imported thread in subdued reds, yellows, and greens derived from natural dyes prepared from bark and seeds. The designs woven on a red warp were based on intricate hook, rhomb, and diagonal cross patterns, which owed their inspiration to the famed royal Cambodian weft ikat cloths. Some cloths also show Thai and Indonesian influences in their designs. With the advent of chemical dyes, the three-colour palette remained the same, but the resulting hues were much brighter. Over the years, bird and flower patterns, as well as the use of metallic weft yarns, were added to the Zin me repertoire. These lon-gyi were woven in a one- or two-ply silk thread in a 1:2, slightly weft-faced twill weave on a four pedal floor loom (Fig. 126).

The body of traditional Zin me lon-gyi is covered with a closely patterned repetitive design. On some cloths, there is a border pattern along the base of the lon-gyi. There is usually a 35-45cm kepala, or vertical area, consisting of closely patterned linear designs between plain weft stripes. This part is folded inside the front pleat and is not visible when worn. Popular designs on traditional Zin me lon-gyi include U Po Nyein, Kyaung Ama Hnyin, and Daw Gyi Hsin, which are named after the people who developed the particular motif. top

During the Depression of the 1930s, inferior dyeing techniques and competition from cheap manufactured cloth virtually destroyed the art of weaving at Inle. In 1936, two weavers, both with the name of U Po Han, went to Korat in north-east Thailand and to Bangkok to study the Thai silk weaving industry. Upon their return, they revived the art of making weft ikat by using lightweight silk imported from China, a wide range of chemical dyes, and modern designs in 1:3, balanced twill weave. While geometric motifs continue to be featured, floral and hook designs have become more popular. Modern designs include a rose pattern, sprigs of one to three flowers, floral creepers, gold and silver blossoms, a beehive motif, and imitations of acheik patters (Fig. 127).

The Zin me silk weaving industry has been modernized. Flying shuttles have been added to looms making it possible to weave two lon-gyi a day. To speed up the process, the cetak method is widely used for applying the secondary colours of modern designs. Many qualities of Zin me cloth are produced in both plain and twill weaves. Today, many designs have a pin-striped appearance due to the practice of breaking up the ikat pattern by placing a few shots of the ground colour in the weft at regular intervals. Zin me cloth continues to have a kepala of wider stripes. top

To the north of Inpawkhon, the villge of Tha-le specializes in producing sturdy cotton lon-gyi for everyday wear. Plaids and stripes predominate. Two-tone, two-ply twisted threads are added for interest to various designs. Sarongs patterned in this technique are often referred to as Bangkauk (Bangkok) lon-gyi because the technique was introduced from Thailand. Dwei Inle lon-gyi, with small checks in two colours enlivened with small supplementary weft designs, are popular. With four-harness floor looms, several different weaves are possible.

A few minutes’ boat ride from Tha-le, lies the village Ywa-ma. At the back of the floating market, there are a number of households which specialize in weaving Shan bags for the tourist trade. Two different types of loom are used. A traditional Burmese frame loom with disc-shaped pedals is used for weaving all-wool bags. The weft yarn is wound onto a stick and is passed by hand through the narrow (30cm) wide warp. It is possible to weave three bags a day on this loom. Side by side with traditional looms are modern frame looms with pulley-operated box shuttles which are used to make bags with simple supplementary weft patterns in wool on a cotton warp. Five bags a day can be woven on this loom."

Click for full reference to 'Handwoven Textiles of South-east Asia'.

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this page last updated 2 January, 2004