The Village That Makes Lotus ThreadMay 31st, 2011
Lotus thread is vary time consuming to make and can only be done at certain times of the year. As a result it is very sacred and respected. Traditionally it has only been used for Monk robes or for scarves for the alters in temples.
In one small village, Kyaing Kan on Inle Lake in the Shan State of Burma, Buddhist monks’ robes are woven from the fibers of lotus stems. Weaving takes place from June to November when the water level is high enough to induce the lotus plant to produce sufficiently long stems. Once cut, the fibers are drawn from the stems. Threads are formed from the twisting together of 5-6 fibers which are wound into skeins and then reeled for warping and for placement on bobbins prior to weaving on a traditional Tai-Burmese floor loom. (Source)
To weave a set of robes for a monk, a woman in Inle Lake would need the fibres from 120,000 stems of the dark pink lotus. This unique fabric, found nowhere else in the world, was invented about a hundred years ago by a woman living at Inle Lake as a gift to her revered abbot. Now, scarves are also woven from this rare material.
The fibres must be used within three days after the stems are pulled from the lake. The stems have a thorny surface which must be scraped smooth first. About five stems are held together in one hand and a small blade used to circle around the whole fistful at about four inches from the end. This is broken off and pulled apart so that silken filaments flow out from the cut ends. The filaments are laid gently on a wet table surface and with a quick turn of a wrist, the fibres are rolled into a thicker thread. The next batch is twisted onto the end of the previous one so that bit by bit, the thread grows. The collected yarn is washed, starched and spun before it can be woven. Its natural colour is an earthy, light brown.
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