By Samir

When discussing goals for the trip, one of the jokes that I repeatedly made was that I wanted to learn to knit yarn. In Vientiane, we heard about the Houey Hong Vocational Center for Women, which teaches rural women textile skills – how to weave thread into scarves, skirts, and other types of clothes, to make natural dyes (from insects, foods & flowers), and to use those dyes to add color to clothes in different patterns. Plus, the center will help finance looms for the women that want to open their own businesses. The center also taught those same skills to tourists, and put the proceeds back into the center.

So, to fulfill the joke and to make a charitable contribution at the same time, we went for a half day at the center. They picked us up and drove us about 7 kilometers outside of town to the center. There were a few women there at the weaving loom when we came in, and a few men making some natural dyes, but otherwise, it was pretty quiet. We started out in the tie-dye section. We picked out white or yellow fabric scarves, and tied them up in a certain way to get a certain pattern on them.

Started with a white scarf

Tied up the scarf for a specific pattern

Some of the dyes and where they come from:

I decided on two colors for mine, so it went in a pot of boiling yellow first, which we tied up with plastic, while we soaked the rest in indigo paste. Cold indigo paste = blue color.

for blue color

After a quick rinse, the final products:

Finished products - Samir's on left, Rachel's on right

After that, we moved on to weaving. We sat at the loom, used our bare feet to push levers, and threaded the needle on through.

Instructor showing us how its done

Rachel’s weaved handkerchief is on the left, mine is on the right – she had a thicker thread, so she made more progress (that’s my story)