Phrae Wa Cloth
A pha phrae wa is a silk shawl worn by Phu Tai ladies over one shoulder with one end hanging behind their back. It is about one sok, about a foot, in width and one wa, about a metre and a half, in length. The term phrae wa is derived from its length. These shawls are woven by the weavers of the Phu Tai Culture Group in the Ban Phon Village, Kham Muang District, Kalasin Province.
A phrae wa is produced with the traditional chok technique. The little fingers are used to chok or pick and pull the multi-colour silk yarns inserted as the extra wefts one bit of the design at a time. The silk yarns used in the process are dyed with colours from natural substances. The colour red, which is the major background colour, is extracted from the excrement of lac insects. The red threads are woven together with silk thread of other colours, which are pulled up to create motifs in sections that alternate with the red plain background throughout the entire area of the cloth. It takes a weaver many months to finish one phrae wa cloth.
A piece of phrae wa features dozens of different motifs that encode the beliefs of the local communities, for example, the lai nak (naga motif) represents the ancestors; the lai dok kaeo (night blooming jasmine motif), the fertility of the land and the virtues in life. Phu Tai ladies prefer to wear a phrae wa shawl over one shoulder when they attend special community functions such as the Bun Bangfai (rain-invoking rocket festival), Yao rite (traditional faith-healing rite), and the Kindong ceremony (wedding ceremony).