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The Materials of Laos

The Materials of Laos!

We only work with the finest raw materials and oversee all production steps to guarantee the highest quality products using environmentally friendly techniques. High quality raw material is a must for high quality end products. In Laos, the artisans work mainly with silk, cotton, hemp and piet.

At Ock Pop Tok, we use organic handspun cotton or silk sourced mostly from artisans in Luang Prabang and Oudomxay Province. Our tropical kudzu (piet in Lao) mainly comes from Oudomxay. And our hemp from Hmong producers in the Houaphan Province. Now you know where we source our materials but did you ever wonder how these materials are made? Let’s take a look!

Gorgeous Lao silk

In Laos there are two types of silkworms: the Eri and Bombyx Mori.

The Bombyx Mori originated in China and eats mulberry leaves. This silkworm makes two types of cocoon: yellow and white. The silk filament is fine and smooth.

The other type, Eri (Philosymia Riccini), originated in India and can eat a variety of plant leaves, such as castor, cassava, and papaya, but not mulberry. The spun yarn is thick and textured, creating textiles that feel soft; almost like wool.

Going a step further in ensuring that we work exclusively with raw material from Laos, some of our new products now sport a “GI” (Geographical Indication) tag certifying that this silk was produced in Luang Prabang.

You can buy our amazing wall hangings made from the most beautiful Lao silk here.

100% organic Lao cotton

In Luang Prabang, we work primarily with a Tai Lue village in Nambak district. The village, set in a lush river valley, is a model of traditional cultural life. The elegant stilted houses are filled with looms and cotton ready for spinning spill out of baskets while colorful yarns dry in the sun.

We’ve been working with these artisans for over 15 years. Nayang is now a vibrant cotton weaving village. They also excel at natural dyeing, particularly indigo. If you order indigo dyed fabric from us for apparel or home decor, chances are that it will be produced in Ban Nayang…

Since 2019, through our collaboration with the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) we’ve also been encouraging villages in Oudomxay to increase and modernize their production of cotton. It’s moving – slowly – in the right direction.

As the demand surpasses the supply, the price of cotton has been increasing continuously for months now. The current price of cotton is $9/kilo (March 2023). It has increased in price by 225% in the last 20 years. Mind you inflation has increased by 40% in the last 6 months (September 2022 to March 2023)…

You can buy our cotton products here.

Tropical Kudzu, straight from the Lao forests

The most common NTFP  (Non Timber Forest Product) in Laos are rattan, bamboo and a local fibre called piet (Tropical Kudzu). Piet, a jungle vine, has been identified as a crop of special importance. It grows wild during the fields’ fallow year. It is an eco-friendly crop that is encouraged to grow between other crops such as coffee and rubber. All these NTFP have multiple uses in Laos. We work mostly with piet and bamboo.

Tropical Kudzu, called Piet in Lao, is the Khmu’s favorite material. The string is made by scraping the bark of the vine, drying it and twisting the lengths together. The Khmu make purses out of jungle vine by knotting the vine together.

You can buy our piet products here.

Hemp, the fabric of the future?

Traditionally in Laos, hemp would be the fabric of choice of the Hmong ethnic group. Like all textile producers in Laos, the Hmong make items for the household, for clothing and for ceremonial purposes.

Nowadays, as they move down from the highlands, many Hmong use cotton or synthetic fabrics/cloths. However, hemp is still cultivated by many Blue Hmong in northern Laos. Making hemp fabric is a laborious process, but the end result is a strong durable cloth with qualities similar to linen.

You will see hemp mostly in our Hmong Batik pieces. Hemp is widely regarded as the crop of the future – as it has such a low environmental impact.

You can buy our hemp products here.

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