Our Ethnic Textiles

Falling in love one textile at a time.
We first traveled to Asia in the year 2000. Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia all beautiful colorful chaos. Coming from the homogeneous cornfields of the Midwest, it was easy to fall in love with the richness and diversity of the people and their cultures.
Back in the days of being a single mother and raising my daughter who is now my partner, repurposing was how we dressed and decorated. Hand me downs, garage sales and cast offs all gained new lives when they entered our house. So when the textiles of Asia called to us, it was second nature to design new fashion and home decor with them.
Welcome to our world of original ethnic textiles. Cultural skills passed down from generation to generation, creating amazing works of art. zzthe beautiful ethnic clothing. Weaving, batik, embroidery, beautiful fabrics repurposed into wearable livable art. Simple facts make recycled, reclaimed, surplus, and vintage fabric arguably the most sustainable choice, as the raw material requires no agriculture and no manufacturing to produce. Siamese Dream Design takes great pride in helping to empower indigenous women provide financial security to their families while maintaining their unique cultural traditions.
Let me introduce you to the unique textiles we design with and the beautiful people who create them.

Hmong textile skills are passed down from mother to daughter. In Hmong history most girls sewed their own clothes. The girls first learn to embroider, followed by appliqué and then batik. Some families start with the cotton fiber grown in their own fields, spin the fiber, and weave the cloth, sometimes in intricate patterns. This is just the beginning. Natural indigo and other dye plants are grown, gathered, and prepared. The cotton is dyed in the indigo vat numerous times to create a deep, almost black, color.
Find out a bit more about Hmong Embroidery http://siamesedreamdesign.blogspot.com/2013_09_01_archive.html
Find out a bit more about Hmong Batik http://siamesedreamdesign.blogspot.com/2011/10/sheslived-in-these-mountains-for-as.html
Nagaland symbols and designs on textiles are the identification mark of the different tribes. It also reflects their social status. Textiles in general are an important part of all ceremonies and festivities in Nagaland particularly to do with their costumes. The All the tribes of Nagaland have their own unique textile heritage which are vibrant and beautiful, a real treat to the beholders eyes. Many are created on a traditional loin loom.
The age old practice of traditional weaving on a loin loom is still very much in use throughout Nagaland. This is a tedious and time consuming method, but the end result is so perfect they cannot be compared with any other type of weaving.
The Republic of Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous nation with 203 million people living on nearly one thousand permanently settled islands. Some two-to-three hundred ethnic groups with their own languages and dialects range in population from the Javanese (about 70 million) and Sundanese (about 30 million) on Java, to peoples numbering in the thousands on remote islands.
Batik is generally thought of as the original Indonesian textile. Patterns on batik often depict nature such as flowers, plants, leaves buds, birds, butterflies. Geometric forms are rich in variety with symbolic associations. This method of drawing patterns in wax on cotton was originally practiced as a form of meditation by the female courtiers of Central Java; traditionally, batik tulis (tulis means 'write' in Indonesian) is produced by women. Different batiks can show social status. Modern batik artists express themselves through a wide variety of subjects.
Ikat is a complex artistic weaving technique used to create images on textiles. The term Ikat comes from the Malay work mengikat, meaning "to tie". Its distinctive feature is that the images are dyed onto the threads before they are placed on the loom and woven into the finished fabric, The threads are first secured to the dying frame and then sections of the design that are to remain undyed are wrapped with a dye-resistant fiber according to the requirements of the pattern. Once the portion of the design to be protected from the first color are tied off, the threads are removed from the frame and immersed in the dye. With the exception of white (the natural color of the thread), a separate dye bath is required for each color. Before each dye bath, the threads are reattached to the frame and strips are cut away or added as necessary to ensure that the individual elements have only the appropriate color in the final design. Even the most complex Ikat patterns are created solely through the tying and dyeing process. Every island, weaving village or family has its own patterns and colors that tells them their history. This makes every ikat special and unique.
The ikat textiles are frequently a part of elaborate gift exchanges for weddings and special ceremonies. They often use designs and color combinations that are considered traditional in that location.
Indonesian weavers produce three types of Ikat:
Warp Ikat - the designs are dyed onto the warp threads that run longitudinally on the loom. In warp ikat the patterns are clearly visible in the warp threads on the loom even before the plain colored weft is introduced to produce the fabric.
Weft Ikat- the patterns are created on the weft threads that are woven across the warp threads. In weft ikat it is the weaving or weft thread that carries the dyed patterns which only appear as the weaving proceeds. The weaving proceeds much slower than in warp ikat as the passes of the weft must be carefully adjusted to maintain the clarity of the patterns.
Double Ikat - the designs are dyed onto both the warp and weft. The trick to achieving a perfect double Ikat is not only in tie dying the vertical and horizontal threads to a matching design, but in making sure they weave together perfectly. Double Ikat’s future is uncertain. Some traditional designs are no longer made. Only a few women now practice the art. This is what makes it Bali’s rarest textile.
Sri Lanka
An Island with 1,600 km of unspoilt, golden beaches. A paradise Island shaped like a tear drop in the Indian Ocean. A vibrant country with an incredible history rich in diversity of culture, race, language, religion and textiles.
Sri Lankan Batik
Batik is still drawn by hand here, no block printing. Most batik in Sri Lanka is created in family run businesses. The driving force for the artist is to apply the technique for the end desired, rather than allowing the technique to control the artist. Sri Lankan batiks incorporate fascinating motifs and vivid colors, some traditional and others very contemporary, but they all display a style unique to the island.
Dumbara handloom weaving has been practiced since the days of the Sri Lankan kings. Stretching back in time to tales from the epic Ramayana from 3000 BC. In Dumbara weaving the distinctive patterns are achieved by inserting thin sticks to turn and twist the thread to the required design. It is a time-consuming process that needs a lot of patience and skill. While spinning is done mainly by women, weaving is done by both men and women.
For many generations, the Karen people have lived in harmony with the forest. They have always been environmentally aware and have avoided farming methods which involved cutting down trees. It is said they feared the forest spirits. This connection with nature is part of what it means to be Karen.
Karen women are known for their fine cotton weaving of clothing, blankets, and bags. The weaving is usually done on a small loom set up with a strap that wraps around the waist at one end, but in some areas there are large wooden frame looms as well. The thread is dyed sometimes with patterns producing a tie-dyed affect. Each of the many sections of this large ethnic group has its own style of dress. Unmarried girls wear simple, long white dresses called hsay mo htoo in Sgaw Karen. Once married the bride changes from her unmarried woman's long dress to a married woman's two-part outfit. The Karen women's tunics are often elaborately embroidered with colored thread and seed-beads. The men's tunics are plain, having only fringed hems.
Find out more about the Karen

Teen Jok
Mae Chaem in northern Thailand is where you can discover the gorgeous Teen Jok textiles. Often referred to as “embroidery on a loom”, this technique requires that different colored weft threads be inserted, threaded and picked through the warp threads, thus forming colorful patterns. Sometimes the picking is done with porcupine quills.
Discover more about Mae Cham and the Teen Jok textiles http://siamesedreamdesign.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2015-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&updated-max=2016-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&max-results=1
Tai Lue
China is the original homeland of the Tai Lue people, but many migrated due to pressure from the Chinese during World War II when the establishment of a communist regime ended the Tai Lue kingdom. They fled to Burma and Northern Thailand. The Tai Lue preserved much of their traditional way of life. Most are farmers where they grow rice for both consumption and sale. They still use wooden equipment drawn by buffalo and are also good fishermen and clever silver smiths. Some men fabricate the famous Tai Lue swords, and the women's specialties include weaving and embroidery. Tai Lue weavers are famed for their cotton farming and cotton weaving skills. The weavers are known as master cotton spinners. Working with natural ingredients such as indigo to make shades of blue and green, the women dye their cotton yarns in preparation for weaving. The looms used are the traditional looms, two-pedal floor standing with a supplementary heddle that is used to create motifs and patterns. Hand crafted weaving equipment such as shuttles and beaters are made by the women’s husbands often featuring decorative carving that Tai Lue men are well known for.
Lisu women are experts at intricate stitch work. They have many patterns that are considered staples in any good Lisu woman's repertoire of needle work. Most of The them focus on sewing small tabs of fabric in contrasting colors criss crossing over one another. A woman's skill level or workmanship is often rated by how small she is able to make the pattern called Ah-Na “Dog's Fangs”.
The Lisu are also fond of silver. During festivals girls wear blouses covered with silver studs and pendants, some girls wear little silver fish in their headdresses.
“The water belongs to the fish, the sky belongs to the birds and the mountains belong to the Akha.”
“Akha,” according to some, means “In Between (high upland and lowland) People”.
The entrances to all Akha villages are fitted with a wooden gate adorned with elaborate carvings on both sides depicting imagery of men and women. This feature is known as a 'spirit gate' and it marks the division between the inside of the village, the domain of man and domesticated animals, and the outside, the realm of spirits and wildlife.
Akha women spin cotton into thread with a hand spindle and weave it on a foot-treadle loom. The cloth is hand dyed with indigo. Women wear broad leggings, a short black skirt with a white beaded sporran, a loose fitting black jacket with heavily embroidered cuffs and lapels. Akha women are known for their embroidery skills.
The headdresses worn by the Akha women are perhaps the most spectacular and elaborate items of Akha dress. Akha women define their age or marital status within the community with the style of headdress worn. At roughly age twelve the young Akha will exchange her child’s cap for that of a girl. A few years later she will begin to don the jejaw—the beaded sash that hangs down the front of her skirt and keeps it from flying up in the breeze. During mid-adolescence she will start wearing the adult woman’s head-dress. These headdresses are decorated by their owner and each is unique