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'Phaa tuum' (shoulder wrap blanket) with 'kuut lek fai' (fern) pattern

20th century


Unknown Artist


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 backstrap 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 blanket is composed of two pieces of fabric joined together. The warp yarns are white, but the ends had a red dye applied prior to weaving, a process called zone dyeing. The warps were then tied to the loom, and the body of the textile was woven with white weft threads. The 'kuut lek fai' (fern) pattern on the main section of the 'phaa tuum' is woven with supplementary threads across the entire textile (continuous supplementary weft). The end panel was woven with red weft threads. The decorative band displays the 'saang hong' (elephant-bird) ridden by ancestor figures, which are woven with multi-coloured discontinuous supplementary weft yarns that do not stretch across the entire textile.

Asian Art Department, AGNSW, February 2012.


Place where the work was made

Sam Nuea Laos

Cultural origin

Tai Nuea people


20th century

Media category


Materials used

silk, cotton, natural dyes; continuous and discontinuous supplementary weft weaving, zone dyeing


79.5 x 230.5 cm (irreg.)


Gift of John Yu, in memory of George Soutter 2012. Donated through the Australian Government Cultural Gifts Program.


Not on display

Accession number