Hmong Hemp

Hemp hill tribes hmong loom southeast asia textile thailand tradition weaving

While in Thailand this past winter, I noticed the Hmong leading the hemp revolution with full steam.  In the highlands of Southeast Asia, hemp has long been produced for everyday clothing, household objects and ceremony. In fact, it is a key component of funeral rituals, where the deceased is fully dressed in hemp. Children even demonstrate respect for their elders by preparing such garments for them long before they die.

Hemp is a rain-fed crop that does not rely on additional irrigation or pesticides to flourish, making them naturally friendly to the environment.  They can also be planted close together, making it a high yielding crop. To top it off, hemp does not rely on a certain temperature or degree of humidity to thrive!

In this part of the world, hemp seeds are planted in April, and by October, ready for harvest when the hard-work begins. The production process requires twisting hemp bark into yarn, winding yarn into skeins, pounding and eventually softening the yarn by a foot mill before even reaching the looms!  

Once woven, hemp typically goes through the batik process, where beeswax is applied to the material before undergoing a natural indigo dye bath. After the beeswax is removed, one can see a white pattern created where the wax has prevented the dye from permeating the cloth.

I mean, wow! Centuries of knowledge and tradition can be found in each beautiful swath! 


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