Thứ Ba, 20 tháng 9, 2016

 Mai Chau brocade has become a symbol of the local Thai people’s culture.

The image of a shy, young Thai woman wearing traditional dress and absorbed in weaving at a loom is now synonymous with Mai Chau. The brocade is a major feature of Thai women’s traditional clothing. It can be seen on the headscarf, the neck opening and the waistband of the tight-fitting ankle-length skirt, highlighting the slender waists of the young Thai woman.
Handmade weaving continues to be an integral part of daily life in Thai community. Thai women are expected to be good at weaving, as well as farming. By the time they reach marital age, they should have already made their own clothes, blankets, and pillows, like a dowry. Hence the Thai saying, “Daughter inherit the weaving profession; boys inherit the family profession.”
Hand dyed, the colors used in the brocades come from nature- forest greens, the colors of various flowers, and the yellow of sunlight, all intricately woven together into vivid patterns by the skilful hands of the Thai women.
The thread most commonly used for the brocade is silk. Thai women have to work very hard to produce the brocade and the thread from which it is made.
Vi Thi Im, a 51-year-old woman from Ban Lac Village, says it takes a Thai woman a great deal of time involving many stages and much effort to make a piece of brocade. The fir stage involves raising the silkworms and growing the mulberry trees on which they feed. An old Vietnamese saying describes the hardship of this life, “A pig farmer can lie down to have meals, while a silkworm farmer must stand to have meals.”
The silkworms are fed on fresh mulberry leaves. About 25 days later, they start to make their cocoon. After 2-3 days, the silkworm will have spun about a kilometer of filament. After harvesting the glossy yellow cocoons, the Thai women put the cocoons into boiling water to kill the silk worms before extracting the individual long fibers which are then fed into the spinning reel. Silk reeling is the longest and most tiring stage. This stage must be done with skill and great care, otherwise the silk threads will not be smooth or equally-sized, and the woven cloth will not be of a high quality. This is what makes handmade silk different from machine-made silk.
The newly-reeled silk is often dry and hard, so it is then steamed to soften it before being dyed. The Thai steam the silk for a day, using a mixture of concentrated indigo leaves, betel leaf extract, lemon juice, parts of trees with sticky substances (which make the silk durable), and sliced unripe papayas.
Natural silk is white in color. Different forest trees are then used for dying the silk, such as Lignum Sappan for red silk, indigo for dark blue and black silk, and saffron for yellow silk. After the silk have been dyed, the young Thai women in Lac Village weave the silk reels into beautiful pieces of brocade in a variety of vivid patterns.
Brocade has a long history in the tradition of the Thai people and reflects not only the high level of skill as artisans, but also the role such crafts play in preserving the culture of the Thai community in Mai Chau.
For each kilogram of silk, the Thai women have to reel three kilograms of cocoons which takes around one day. As a result of the time and labor involved each kilogram of silk costs up to VND600,000 (US$28.4). Brocade weaving brings the local people a reasonably stable income source and silk is the main material for many local products such as dresses, scarves, hats and handbags.

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