“Oh, that's what we've been doing wrong!”
My friend Aga was looking for activities in Luang Prabang on her phone: “Apparently the women in Laos are very much into weaving because it's said the better you are at it, the better a wife you are going to be. That's why we are still single!"
The next morning, we were picked up for our weaving course in a Tuk Tuk. Tou, our guide explained that he'll drive us to a nearby village, where Lae is living and working. She has been weaving ever since she was ten years old and would teach us for half a day while he helped to translate.
On our way, he told us about the tradition of weaving in Laos. The Lao weavers are known for their high-quality weaving and the best, of course, comes from northern Laos.
When I asked if he also did weaving, Tou laughed: “no, that's for girls.” “Is it because they need to be good at weaving to become a good wife?” “Yes, yes, you need to be good at weaving”. Ha! We were right about this and have found the solution to all our dating problems!
A few minutes later, we were introduced to Lae at her workshop next to her house.
She let us chose two colours, which we then had to get on a spindle using a wooden machine, that included a bicycle wheel. That's where our trouble started because apparently we were going too fast or too slow and were at the skill level of a three-year-old. I did one spindle in the time Lae needed to complete five.
Then Lae sat down at her weaving loom and got started. I remembered my first piano lessons as a child, where I had the same thoughts of “I don't even know what's happening”. I sat in Lae's spot and tried to do what she did. Since she took care of everything, all I had to do was move a little piece of wood shaped like a ship from left to right. That was totally possible!
After a couple of minutes, I felt more confident.
Aga, sitting on her own loom next to me got started as well.
Much to the amusement of the ladies from the village, we were actually weaving pretty fancy scarves. They stopped by and watched us, sat down and helped.
We only had to follow Laes two commands:
“Like this. Forever.”, meaning just weaving without a pattern, that was the easy part. Or the one we both feared: “make pattern”, where Lae moved hundreds of threads in the loom with a giant piece of wood while pointing at different colours for us to use. “this one! Seven”. Whenever I thought I had it, held up a thread and asked “Seven?” She laughed. “no, one!”.
After an hour or two everything started to hurt. I'm not used to using my shoulders like this, sitting in this tiny loom (Asia makes me feel like a freakishly tall person every single day) and staring at the same pattern for hours!
During my day with Lae, I realized how hard the Lao women are working to create the masses of scarves I had seen on all these markets.
And I loved the brilliant social aspects of their weaving, placing the loom outside and talking to their neighbours while working.
Aga felt the same way. After five hours we both gave up, Lae assured us that this was fine and we had done a great job. She would finish our scarves and send them over to our guest house later that night (we than realized that we had only done about 20cm and she had done the rest).
She moved over to Tou, who translated for us:
“She asks how old you are” – “I'm 28” – “Lae is 31. But still single.” Damn it.
This is not a sponsored post. We booked this course with Backstreet Academy and spent about 35$ on it. I'd still highly recommend it!