Local harvest season: after members of the Karen Hill Tribe community are finished tending rice patties, they weave compelling pieces of work, sharing a piece of themselves through their art. Woven through a backstrap loom, each scarf takes two days to weave, making passion for the process a necessity. The gentle weaves of the scarf only become softer with time and use, a tribute to the beauty of dedicated craft.
Backstrap weaving has a deep meaning for the women groups’ founder P’ Wandee. Learning from her grandmother, P’ Wandee began to weave at the young age of 13. With new technologies and opportunities in the city, an ancient Karen tradition became vulnerable to the passage of time. To retain the tradition, members of the community set out to make it a source of sustainable income. Fifteen years later and 45 weavers strong, P’ Wandee’s group is a sustainable preservation of culture. Weaving is part of their livelihood. Farming and planting rice is another. Creating this collection entails an integration of these three staples: rice, tradition and backstrap weaving.
The backstrap weaving loom is unique in its complexity and loved for its portability. The basic style of weaving involves using a loom to interlace two sets of threads: the vertical warp and the horizontal weft. Interlacing cotton between strips of bamboo, which carry the pattern, creates the warp. The weft is made using a spin wheel to transfer the cotton onto the bobbins that transfer to the scarf horizontally. Each shift is done by hand instead of using pedals, which is what makes backstrap weaving so complicated. You must pull the strap around your back and place your feet on the plank of wood used to control the tautness of the thread to weave. Expert weavers take two days to weave each Harvest scarf.