90.0 x 202.0cm [weft x warp]
The Tai Neua are a sub-group of the Tai language family. The Tai live in a broad region stretching from Eastern India to Southwestern China and Northern Vietnam. Before the easy availability of printed cotton, Lao-Tai women produced all the textiles for the home, including mattresses, pillows, clothing, and decorative pieces. The blankets are made of at least two pieces of fabric separately woven on a back-strap loom (instead of using a wooden frame, the loom is held taut by a strap that passes around the weaver's back). Blankets are necessary as the nights can be cold in the highlands of Laos.
This 'phaa hom' is composed of two pieces sewn together. The base fabric has white and blue weft threads and white warp threads. The skirt has been zone-dyed red, meaning that the bottom edge of the cloth has had a red dye applied. The colour seeps up the yarns, creating an irregular area of red at the base of the textile. The end panel is continuously woven with metal-wrapped supplementary weft threads, and the multi-coloured decoration is formed by discontinuous supplementary weft threads. The patterns are geometric yet often represent vegetal and floral motifs. The zigzag line with hooks near the bottom of the textile is actually a stylised mythical serpent ('naga'). The textile was woven separately in two pieces, which were then joined together. The weaver deliberately did not match up the two sides for fear of offending the gods. The swastika pattern on the body of the textiles is woven with continuous supplementary weft yarns. The pattern is called a "key" design ('kachae').
Asian Art Department, AGNSW, December 2011