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Yangon Post

MEET THE MAKERS: Backstrap Weavers

MEET THE MAKERS: Backstrap Weavers

Hello! We are Kalinko's Backstrap Weavers.

Backstrap Weavers
We are from Chin State in Western Burma, and we make the fabric for Kalinko's cushions.
Chin State

A LITTLE BIT ABOUT US

Ma Hla Shwe

 

Khine Khine Oo

 

Mu Mu Win

 

We used to weave in our homes, but now that we are weaving for Kalinko we sit together. The workshop is in the middle of the village, so it's easy to get to. We gossip all day long, and lots of people drop in and out throughout the day - it's very sociable!

The Workshop

WHERE WE LIVE

Our village is very remote. The nearest town is a two hour drive away and it takes two days by bus to get to Yangon. 

We live in wooden houses. They are raised on stilts to keep us dry in the Monsoon rains between June and October. 

 

Typical House 

We mostly eat rice, and any vegetables we grow. Sometimes if we go to the nearest town we buy some dried fish from the market. This lasts a long time, so we can put a little bit into each meal for extra flavour. 

Dried Fish in the Market 
It's a very peaceful village, except when the children make a racket! We don't really like the idea of Yangon. It's noisy and expensive. 
The Village

HOW WE WEAVE

We weave fabric on something called a Backstrap Loom. It is a technique which we have been using in Asia since the Bronze Age. We make the looms ourselves using sticks and leather. They look like this:

 

Backstrap Loom 

We tie the ends of the threads to something stationary, then pull them tight with our waist at the other end. So our bodies are part of the loom and we weave on our laps, passing the thread back and forth from right to left between the strands. This means that the fabric is never much wider than us, which is why most of Kalinko's cushions are about 45cm wide.  

The pattern is dictated by horizontal sticks which we lift up and down in turn. You have to concentrate quite hard if it's a complicated pattern, but often we know the pattern so well we can almost do it without looking! We have inherited the patterns from our grandparents, who learnt them from their grandparents. 

Natural Dying

We also dye a lot of the yarn we use ourselves using natural products. You can read about that process in an old Kalinko blog post all about dyeing!

WHAT WE MAKE

Once the whole loom is filled, you end up with about 2 metres by 50cm of fabric. This takes about two weeks. We make lots and lots of these in all sorts of patterns.

Kalinko Fabrics

We spend a long time every few months with the Kalinko team discussing which patterns to make, and which colours to choose. 

Choosing Patterns

When we have a big enough pile of fabrics, we send them to Yangon where the seamstresses make them into cushions, ready for their journey to the UK, and their new homes. We love seeing photos of our fabrics with happy customers in far away places.  

Showing the girls pictures of their fabrics in their new homes

If you've already got some Kalinko cushions, you can share them on Instagram or Facebook and tag us @kalinkohome, then the team in Yangon will send them to us!

And if you haven't got any yet....

Shop Cushions

Thanks for reading our story! 

Ps. all our amazing photos were taken by the enormously talented Pyae Phyo Zaw

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