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Indigo Ikat Shawls

I would like to share more about the process of making these lovely shawls.  When we were in Chiang Mai, we attended a large "exhibition"  (this is what the Thais call their retail shows).   We were hoping to find several vendors whose villages made products by hand.  As we passed by one beautiful booth, I saw what I thought was real indigo, and I was right.  The booth had beautiful clothing, but the shawls called to me....(hello Gale) .... and then I touched them!  "Oh wow, cashmere!" I said to myself, "I don't even want to ask the price".  I decided I could gift myself with one, as I love buying a piece or two of a unique textile for my personal collection.  Cautiously, I waited to talk to the vendor, with my eyes darting all over looking for the perfect one for me.   

When I found out the price, I was intrigued, wondering if I could sell these to my customers.  I always choose to spend my budget on textiles and a little bit on gift items.  These were more costly than what I usually budget for gifts, so I started asking for more information about how they are made.  The young woman in the booth had several photos (I had finally taken my eyes off the shawls) of the villagers making the fabric for the shawls.  I found out that her village grows and produces all indigo, dyes and the fabric.  They also design the ikat patterns, and do all the weaving.  When I found out they were cotton, I decided that would be perfect for selling!  I am pretty sure that they also grow the fine, soft quality cotton. 

Fermenting and making of the indigo dye takes many steps and is quite time consuming.  In most cases, in Thailand, there are no instructions for any of the traditional natural dying or weaving processes, Instead they are passed down thru the generations.  Did you know when you dye a fabric with indigo, it initially comes out of the dippings, an unattractive greenish color?  It turns blue after it oxidizes, but it takes many dippings (at least 5 times, but preferably more) to obtain the rich blue color.  It takes at least 20 minutes to oxidize each time you dip it.  Likewise, the ikat weaving process is detailed and time consuming.  I will share that process in another blog. 

Sara taking photos of the indigo plants. 

A batch of the indigo sludge, and she was very pleased that this would make a beautiful color.  How can she tell????

The indigo is fermenting.  

Ready for dying and the greenish color is usually what you get before the oxidizing occurs. 

There are some of you that are lucky enough to own one of these shawls, but for those that don't, I assure you they are soft.  I see customers at shows admire the softness and that validates it for me.  There are some other details to notice.  The design is very detailed and I have not seen the same design twice.  The background fabric is also hand woven in-it's not a pattern already on the fabric!  Does it have more than 2 colors?  If so, that is an additional making of the dye, and dying the threads additional time(s). All of the fringe is made by hand by rolling the threads (by hand!) until they double up on themselves.  They can only make 25 a month.  You can see why I think these shawls are a piece of art! 

Sara and her mother tying the ikat pattern. 

All finished and ready to dye 

Someone has started weaving.  All the looms are made by hand in the village. 

The cute, talented vendor wanted me to share these photos with you. Some of the photos show garments made with the fabric.   She designs all the garments, organizes the production, and attends the shows.  I love supporting people like this.  Her motto is (I think you will understand the language)- Own dream. Do not take it to leave it with other people. Do it yourself. That's the way of life.

We still have several shawls available.  If you want to make a garment and need yardage, we only have one piece of fabric left on our website that I can cut into yardage. I will try to get more when I next go to Thailand. 

Sara with garments that she designs.