Lao silk - Beautifully handcrafted, hand-dyed silk from the weaving villages of Laos

Orijyn has been working with rural weavers far from the big markets, to develop products incorporating their particular weaving skills and traditions. In this way, women can earn much needed money and still stay in their communities with their families.

In 2006, Orijyn began teaching sustainable business practices with PADETC, a school in Laos, and began working with groups of weavers in the villages of Vientiane Province. We assisted them with technical and marketing guidance for product improvement, business start-up development, as well as small loans to expand their production.

Orijyn works on both sides of production, improving product quality and variety while also sourcing markets domestic and foreign on behalf of rural weaving groups. In late 2008 we were able to bring our first silk product line to market. Orijyn is continuing to develop new products, patterns and colors with the weavers.

Conserving Nature and Preserving an Art Form

The silk used in our products is raised in the villages, on mulberry leaves grown by the farmers. The villagers reel the silk from several cocoons at one time to create a continuous silk thread. Variables such as where on the cocoon the silk comes from and different twists as it is being reeled, give the silk different qualities. The silk is then hand dyed using colors extracted from sustainably harvested natural dyes in plants and animals. Hand dyeing is a difficult art and colors can vary slightly from one dye lot to the next depending on such variables as the time of year. Families often guarded their dye recipes. PADETC has a master dyer to aid the villagers and document traditional dye recipes.

Weaving, for daily use and for rituals, has been an integral part of life and culture in Laos for centuries. Most Lao village women learned the art of weaving and the traditional designs from their mothers when they were little girls. Even now, every village home has a loom. The looms, with unique Lao weaving implements, and dye pots were taken into caves when the people fled, and thus survived even during wars and migrations.

There can be special patterns and colors for ceremonies, festivals and textiles used in daily life. Motifs represent the flora and fauna, mythical and real creatures and the beliefs of the people. The Lao are very skilled in many of the weaving traditions of Southeast Asia, using difficult and complex techniques sometimes in the same piece.

Empowering Women and Sustaining a Culture

A fair wage is paid to the artisan for their weavings, making money available for the family's healthcare and education. Helping the women make money while staying in their villages, also keeps the community and culture alive. A portion of your purchase also goes to PADETC, to support further development of village-based, culturally sustaining projects.

Click for interviews with the weavers.

Handcrafted Silk Dyeing and Weaving

These scarves feature the weaving traditions of the Lao women. Sulaboul scarves are comprised of bands of thick and thin silk that come from the outside layer of the cocoon and when woven together, playfully catch the sun. The silk in the ikat scarves is hand dyed with the design in mind, prior to being woven. The design is revealed as the weaving progresses. The handcrafted nature of the scarves adds to its unique qualities. Subtle variations in color may occur, depending on season and availability of the plant dye. Each should be considered a unique work of traditional art. All the scarves are dyed in rich, natural dyes and look good on both men and women or on a table as the centerpiece.