Tie-Dyed Textiles in Cambodia

by Verónica

During his trip to Southeast Asia, my husband purposefully visited a couple of textile factories knowing that I would be interested in knowing about local crafts. The first place he toured was the Institute for Khmer Traditional Textiles (IKTT) in Siem Reap Angkor, Kingdom of Cambodia. There, he walked the shop floor and took the following photographs of local women artisans spinning, dyeing and weaving traditional Cambodian textiles.

IKTT 5

IKTT 1

The raw yellow silk is reeled from cocoons of the same golden color. I initially thought the golden silk thread had been dyed but it is actually in its natural form. You can read more about yellow raw silk here.

IKTT 2

IKTT has also embarked on preserving and regenerating a natural forest in Siem Reap. The undertaking includes cultivating plants and trees that can be used as natural dyes.

IKTT aims to restore the art of creating traditional Cambodian textiles and has established a village project called PROJECT OF WISDOM FROM THE FOREST where 140 IKTT staff currently live growing trees to be used in silk-worm raising and the natural dying of fabric. We offer job opportunities to disadvantaged women and are working to preserve the national heritage for younger generation[s].

IKTT 3

These scarves are hand knit out of 100% pure silk and sold at market.

IKTT 4

His next tour was at the Angkor Silk Farm located approximately an hour outside of Siem Reap. Run by Artisans Angkor, they cultivate Mulberry trees at the farm and continue the traditions of Khmer arts and crafts such as weaving silk textiles, stone and wood carving, and silk painting.

Here, a young woman heats up the cocoons as she reels the silk threads from them. I will spare you the photograph of the platter of silk worms my husband shared with me.

Artisans Angkor 1

The ikat technique, or tie-dyeing of the silk threads, requires meticulous attention to detail. The term “ikat” means “to bind, tie or wrap around.” This young woman is tying a pattern onto the silk threads. My husband tells me that they would work off a picture or another textile to create the pattern.

Artisans Angkor 3

After tying the knots, they would submerge the textile into large dye pots to pick up the desired color. Once dry, they would untie the knots and dye the fabric again. This process would continue until they achieved the pattern and color palette they wanted.

Artisans Angkor 4

Artisans Angkor 2

Apparently, some of the textiles are so beautiful that they are displayed as art and even framed in glass to protect them.

Artisans Angkor 5

I would love to spend a month or two in one of these factories and sit next to these women reeling, dyeing and weaving. Perhaps one day …