Traditional Karen blouses

For July and August, our web-shop promotion highlights some of the traditional textiles worn by Karen women, with special focus on married women's blouses.

When we first started working with the Karen in Sop Moei District, traditional clothing was worn by all.  For women, clothing denoted marital status.  Girls and un-married women traditionally wore white tunics with tassels or chenille tufting.  Married women wore richly embroidered blouses paired with sarong skirts.  Today, modern clothing has replaced traditional clothing in the villages to some extent, but many still wear the traditional outfits, especially during religious ceremonies or festive occasions.

        

(Girls tunic, un-married woman's tunic with chenille, married woman's blouses)

The Karen married women's blouses are still woven in the traditional way, on backstrap looms.  Each blouse is composed of two narrow panels which are sewn together to form the garment.  The ends of the panels are finished in a long fringe.  While some of the pattern is woven into the textile, the intricate, rich embroidery is stitched by hand afterwards.  Karen from different regions in Thailand have their own distinct patterns and the textiles in this collection are all from Sop Moei District in Mae Hong Son Province.  The Job's Tears seeds used for the applique are grown locally on farms together with the rice and are not always found on blouses from other areas.

      

(Sewing Job's Tears seeds onto blouses and weaving on a backstrap loom)

While most of our textiles are woven on large looms, the blouses are still woven in the traditional way.  The women chose their own colours and patterns and even after all these years, we have yet to come across two blouses that are the same.  Each blouse is unique to the woman who wove it, an expression of their own taste, skill and creativity.  That means that each handbag or cushion featuring this textile is limited edition or one of a kind.

  

(Shoulder bag and pompom cushion featuring traditional Karen blouse textile)

Our hope is that by show-casing these unique and beautiful textiles, we can contribute to keeping these traditional skills alive.  

You can browse the promotion in our web-shop here

Leave a comment