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PostPosted: Wed Mar 17, 2010 2:20 am 

Joined: Wed Mar 17, 2010 2:03 am
Posts: 3
Location: Denver, Colorado USA
Greetings, all...
I am on a quest, a quest that has so far led nowhere, except in circles occasionally.

I help manage a refugee women's empowerment project in Denver, Colorado, US. Our group includes jewelry makers, knitters, and weavers, among others. Our weavers are Burmese, and most are Karen, although we also have some Karenni and Chin in the group.

The weavers are all highly skilled and have been weaving on back strap looms since they were children. Only a few are weaving now. The biggest problem we have is a lack of weaving fiber. The Karen are very particular about which fibers they'll use in their work. The fiber they brought with them doesn't have any labeling, so we don't know what it is and the women can't tell us in English. :?

Ideally, we would like to use fiber identical (or nearly identical) to what the weavers used in Burma and while in the camps in Thailand. A couple of the women spend upwards of 41 Thai Bat per kilo to have weaving cotton mailed to them by relatives living in Mae La Camp near Mae Sot, Thailand. This is very expensive and not a price we can afford as a group.

We have been thoroughly unsuccessful in locating a source for this very fine, thread-like weaving cotton. I took some to a local yarn shop that also carries looms, but the folks there weren't very helpful. They couldn't tell me the gauge or anything.

If anyone knows where we can buy this fiber, please let me know! We realize we may have to import it. I have also been contacted by at least a half-dozen other groups in the US that are attempting to locate the same item for weavers in their area. If it comes down to importing, I suppose it's possible the other groups will join us in a combined effort for economy of scale.

If it's helpful, I can post a photo of what a hank of this fiber looks like.

Thanks for any insight you can provide. You can see what our nonprofit group does by visiting our website,


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 17, 2010 11:09 am 
Site Admin

Joined: Sun Jun 29, 2003 1:42 pm
Posts: 1997
Location: Canterbury, UK
Hi Sharon

Would be great if we can assist.

Have you had an American expert weaving friend have a look at the yarn? It should be easy for you to mail a sample to them. They might be able to identify the type of yarn in a US context if they were going to be trying to weave with a similar yarn. Useful if they can grade the thickness of the yarn, whether it is Z or S twist etc. You mention that it is fine. Although I am not a weaver I subscribe to the UK based journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers and have been impressed by the descriptions of all the yarns not only in articles but also adverts in the magazine.

I would expect the thread to be cotton. Probably machine spun and originally sourced in a local Burmese market. Of course, historically it would have been home grown cotton and hand spun but I think that machine spun is most likely now.

We have forum members with contacts to Karen weavers in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand as well as people who are weavers (non-Karen) so perhaps we can move your search on a bit. Give us a bit of time to mobilise......

on-line tribal textiles resource

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 17, 2010 3:28 pm 

Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2003 6:34 pm
Posts: 394
Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Sharon- Hi from Chiang Mai, Thailand-
I would be happy to see what I can find here and then arrange to mail it to you, but I need more to go on, such as a sample preferably. If you can get a phonetic description from your weavers, perhaps I can take it to a Karen weaver I know and see if she knows what it is or a source for it. You can private message me to continue this conversation if you like.

Susan Stem

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