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The Love Gift, a labor of love

The Love Gift, a labor of love

Small and easy to pack, the Love Gift, is one of our bestsellers. This silk textile is the work of master weavers and conveys the hopes and dreams of the weaver. With a name so fitting, we had to talk about the Love Gift during the month of love…

Love Gifts, or pha khan mon in Lao, are symbolic gifts given by a young weaver to her crush or romantic partner. During the war years, love gifts were sent off by mothers and sisters to sons and brothers on the frontlines as a reminder of home and as a symbol of love and protection. These Love Gifts conveyed the hopes and dreams of the weaver.

Given their size, love gifts are a perfect starter piece for young weavers to practice and weave complicated motifs. Our love gifts are woven by Tai Daeng master weavers deep in the forested valleys of Houaphan Province*, in northeastern Laos.

The Tai Daeng are considered Laos’ best silk weavers. Using exceptionally lustrous, handspun silk fibers, the weavers create textiles rich in traditional cultural motifs rooted in ancient shamanic beliefs and Buddhist iconography.

Love Gifts are woven using the Discontinuous Supplementary Weft technique. It takes about 10 hours for a master weaver to complete one. The weavers offer both traditional motifs and contemporary interpretations, demonstrating their creativity and skills as Laos’ preeminent textile artists.

The Supplementary Weft Technique

For the supplementary weft technique, the pattern is created by inserting an extra thread between each row of ground weave. Each time the weaver does a row of ground weave, she lifts the warps thread and adds the supplementary weft thread. However, every time she lifts the warp threads, it’s following a pattern that has been pre-created in what is called, the supplementary heddle. As if the weaving isn’t hard enough already, the toughest part is creating this supplementary heddle in the first place.

For the Discontinuous Supplementary Weft technique, two or more coloured pattern threads are used to make the pattern. The weaver adds the coloured thread by hand as opposed to using a shuttle. This technique is very time consuming. Sometimes a weaver can only weave a few centimeters a day. The wider the cloth, the longer it takes.

Traditional motifs, contemporary interpretations

We’ve been selling our Love Gifts pretty much since our beginnings in 2000 and they’ve been a bestseller for years. We totally get the interest as they showcase the wonderful savoir-faire of Lao weavers at a smaller scale and an affordable price. 

We started selling them “as is”. Small and easy to pack, the Love Gift, was (and is still today) the perfect souvenir to bring back for a loved one. However, over the years, we came up with some new ways to showcase these art pieces.

We framed them against a solid (silk) background so they could be displayed as the work of art that they are! For shipping purposes, we sell them unframed on our webshop. You can then have them framed against any material of your choice.

You can purchase yours here. Due to their handmade features, size, colour and motifs vary greatly with this piece. Picture may not indicate selection.

We did not  stop there! We also transformed them into… cushion covers. They were a big hit and are currently out of stock but stay tuned for a shop update soon!

*Houaphan is where the Village Weavers Project started more than 20 years ago following a spontaneous journey to this province in northeastern Laos. This journey jumpstarted the Village Weavers Project, a dynamic model for village-based collaborations. Since the trip, the Village Weavers Project has evolved and grown, helping Lao women weavers and artisans access markets and preserve their cultural traditions.

You can also follow us off the beaten track when 20 years later – back in 2020 – we went back to Houaphan. Read the blog about this trip here. And watch the beautiful video of this journey here.

Let us know what you would like to read about next on [email protected]!

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