I was so lucky recently to enjoy a visit to Myanmar (which some people will know as Burma). The beautiful country of the golden stupas and pagodas, temples and monasteries.
Whilst we were there we visited a silk weaving workshop where women still make the traditional Longyi which is a two metre stretch of fabric worn wrapped around the lower body by both men and women. It is a very versatile garment which can be wrapped so that it can be used as a hooded jacket, a sling for carrying a baby or a backpack for a water bottle. It can be wound so that it becomes a hat on which large trays or baskets can be balanced. It can also be pulled through the legs to become shorts which are useful for playing football or when going out in a fishing boat.
The men's garments are called pasos and the ladies a htamain. The ladies wear theirs tied in a different way to the men and are generally much brighter silk colours and patterned in contrasting colours. There are cotton ones for everyday and silk for more important occasions like weddings.
Here are some photos I took and you will see how they are still using traditional methods and there are no computerised processes at all. I was very surprised to learn that almost every longyi you see is made in small workshops like this one and all by hand.
Silk really does hold colour better than any other textile as you can see in this cabinet of thread waiting to be used.
Here are the bobbins wound up ready for the start of a new project.
As you can see from this weaving they are making other items from the silk weaving and this could be for a table.
Although the looms are very large, the ladies sit side by side and there is a nice atmosphere created by the very hard working women in the workshop.
These are very dexterous hands - just look at all those shuttles.
A view of the back of the workshop.
Trying to get the right shot of the looms in use.
The equipment is very traditonal and all hand worked.
Working with both her left and right hands at once.
Here is the silk on the bobbins for the machine above.
I didn't crop that lady with her head in her hands out as she looks as if she is overwhelmed with so much choice. These are all the finished longyis in the shop area.
And here I am in my beautiful blue htamain on our boat the Princess Panhwar. I opted for an easier version which has long pieces of material which you wrap round and tie. I didn't think I would be able to manage the traditional way. You have to make sure your pattern lines up on the edges. I found it very comfortable to wear but I did wear another long skirt underneath as I thought it was a bit see through. I bought mine from a stall in a temple we visited as I was very taken with the two toned effect of the blue material which shimmers very prettily in the light. We had an entertaining afternoon when the staff modelled the different ways of wearing the longyi and showed how to tie them.