Women from uplands and lowlands along the Mekong River and its tributaries produce some of the world's most beautiful and technically sophisticated weaving. The interaction between weaver, loom, and yarn results in textiles that are artistic treasures suitable for daily life.
Many weavers from cultures of the Mekong region use back-tensioned looms: the weaver sits on the floor or ground, while her back, extended legs, and feet place tension on the warp for inserting the weft yarn into the shed. The upright loom came to Southeast Asia about 1,000 years ago when members of Tai cultures migrated from southern China. The wooden frame of this loom creates tension for the weaving elements suspended within it, which gives the weaver enough flexibility to create long pieces of cloth.
Traditional fibers include hemp, homegrown cotton, and silk from silkworms raised in villages. Today, some weavers use durable synthetic yarn; however, local, naturally dyed yarns are returning to the Mekong region as consumers request them.