Thailand, Laos and the Textile Track – Heddles
Well I started with the previous post using the spinning of Thailand/Laos as a feature but now it’s the heddles.If you are a weaver you’ll be bowled over by the heddle overload in these countries. Heddles are strings (in this case) which have an eye or loop of some sort allowing a weaver to pick up specific warp threads according to a pattern. The heddles here are quite complex and have many ‘rows’ of weaving pattern stored to create beautiful and regular patterns with an extra supplementary weft to enrich the ground fabric (this is often plain weave).
Most often we see heddling that is horizontal but I really went to Laos to see the unique vertical heddles. Here you can see each row of pattern held by sticks but they can also be with just pieces of string. Each row is pulled down and a weaver’s sword placed between the selected wefts for the row and woven. The pattern stick is transferred to the heddles underneath the weaving and stored until it is ready to start reversing the pattern and taking the bottom sticks for every row, weaving and transferring to the top. It is totally ingenious.
I expected to see these vertical heddles as the only ones in use, but I also encountered horizontal heddles which would be similar to something I would use, if inclined! You can see noted Australian weaver Kay Faulkner weaving on this type of loom near Luang Namtha in Laos.
Even more unusual, to my eyes, was partial pattern horizontal heddles. I mean why set up heddles right across the weaving just for the sake of symmetry?
Seeing mastery of weaving at this level is exhilarating. The looms are so ‘can do’ with a series of sticks and strings. I really wanted to sit with the weaver all day…even to make her cups of tea and soak in it. But then I would still be there getting in the way and the tour must go on.