By Cilla Jones – 1 week volunteer
During our 6 day stay, we had the opportunity to learn scarf weaving with a village resident in her home. I’m glad we did, it was an enjoyable experience for myself and my 14 year old daughter. The locals are highly resourceful and creative people with impressive handicraft skills. Luckily, our weaving instructor, Nee, was very patient with us. While the process of learning to weave the threads on the loom and then form the fabric of the scarf was laborious, I can only imagine the agony of trying to teach this skill, particularly without verbal communication.
The language barrier was half the fun, luckily a smile and a good laugh are universally understood, of which many were shared on both sides of the language divide. I was grateful that we came prepared with some written phrases and conversational help from our Pakinyaw lesson, provided by the staff.
This gave us a newfound appreciation for just how much time and work goes into handmade clothing. In this instance, even the colours are made by dying the threads with local tree barks or mud. An estimated 7-8 hours went into the production of my one scarf. Admittedly, without the delays of trying to teach two butterfingered ‘gola’s (the Karen word for westerner), it wouldn’t usually be quite the painstaking exercise that it was. As Nee demonstrated her weaving fluency to us, it was relaxing to observe her forming textile art right before our eyes.
I would recommend this optional excursion for any KSES visitors, looking for a creative and cultural experience as part of their time in the village. Not only was it a chance to try a new craft, it was lovely to extend the experience of the homestay, spending time with a local in her home, which was also frequented from other locals and family members during our time there. Nee was able to take a short break from instructing us, while another very patient weaving expert relieved her, as she tended to other work momentarily. As a result, my beautiful scarf will be a highly treasured memento of our time at KS.