Last week was the first textile-related stop on this textile-related trip. My cousin's friend Meg works for Push Pull, a Cambodia-based textile cooperative that uses traditional ikat weaving methods to make contemporary fabrics. It was started when the founder was traveling in Cambodia and became friends with his tuk-tuk driver. The driver took him back to his village for a meal, where the founder noticed that everyone in the village in Takeo Province had looms in their houses. People were all weaving independently, creating textiles in their spare time and selling them where they could. He decided to create an organization that these weavers could all work for together, and so Push Pull was born. Today, that tuk-tuk driver, Kea, still works for the organization and he was able to show us around the weaving center.
Traditional Cambodian ikats are woven with silk, but Push Pull decided to introduce cotton in order to make the products more marketable. The fabrics they create are high-quality cottons with updated, modern designs, but done in the same traditional method that the villagers were using in their homes.
Ikat is an extremely complicated weaving process, and the threads are stretched out and dyed before they are woven. That is why it has the zig-zaggy edges on the patterns; because the pattern is dyed on to the thread, they don't line up perfectly and it creates the soft edge on the pattern.
Here you can see the dyed threads being laid out to dry. The black is the dyed cotton, and the bright red, green and yellow is the plastic string they use to tie off the sections they want to remain white, so this will produce a black and white pattern. To add more colors, they then wrap the black section to protect it and leave the white exposed, then it is dipped in another color.
Since the weaving center is in the weavers' hometown, they are able to bike to work and go home for lunches, and to have a steady income in the village. To see the finished product, check out Push Pull's website right here, and see the products that this beautiful fabric is turned into! When we visited, they were busy weaving the Fall 2012 collection, which comes out in August. They are introducing five new patterns as well as a line of scarves, which I will be eagerly waiting for.