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Sinhs (Lao skirt fabric)
News Flash! We're going to Laos the last half of November (2011) so we cannot accept any orders during this time. But the GREAT news is that if you want us to locate Lao sinh(s) for your wedding or other special occasion this is a great opportunity because we won't be going back to Laos until Dec. 2012. We will be purchasing sinhs for a number of customers so it's something you may want to take advantage of... All you need to do is email us at email@example.com and we can see what we can work out.
"The styles [of sinhs] not only represent the variety and abundance of our natural resources, but also the inner hearts and minds of the people, expressed through their gentle manner, attitude and behavior. These make our dress [sinhs] outstanding and different from other countries.” ~ Traditional Dress Key to Preserving Culture (March 10, 2008) as reported in the Vientiane Times
In the photo on the left three young women are wearing sinhs as they pose for a photo by That Luang in Vientiane, the largest stupa in Laos and one of most important national monuments in Laos. The young woman on the right is Bai's sister, Bouasai, who has just graduated from the University of Laos and works as a weaver for Taykeo.
What is a Lao sinh?
“The sinh is a traditional garment worn by Lao women. It’s a simple tube skirt which can identify the woman who wears it in a variety of ways. The sinh is made of silk, [silk and cotton or cotton only] woven in exquisite motifs as well as delicate embroidery. They come in different textures and designs and are usually created in rural areas by ethnic groups… The sinh, woven with diverse motifs and colors, reflects the culture, social relationships and beliefs from community to community and region to region. Often times a certain type of sinh is usually worn for a specific event.
A Lao woman learns to weave at a young age. In the beginning she learns to weave the narrow piece for the hem of her sinh…and when the girl gets older she moves to wider and more complicated designs. A sinh consists of 3 different parts, the houa sinh (waistband), pheun sinh (body, main part) and the tdin sinh (hem).
The pheun sinh is the main and the longest part at the center of the sinh [and what we are selling here at Laos Essential Artistry]. It is woven with different techniques such as continuous and discontinuous supplementary weft pattern, supplementary warp pattern, matmii (ikat), tapestry and twisted multiple yarn pattern.
There are both vertical and horizontal designs. Sinhs with vertical patterns are mainly stitched to be made into a tube skirt with one seam. Sinhs with horizontal designs have to be stitched with two seams. There are some horizontal patterns which can be made into a sinh with only one seam. This is dependant on the design chosen or weaving techniques such as supplementary warp and a warp striped pattern.”
Sinhs have different names that relate to the weaving technique and design employed. The pheun sinh, the body, is the most important part of a sinh and very often the sinh gets its name from the specific techniques and designs used to create this part. For instance there is sinh mii (sinh woven with ikat technique), sinh muk (sinh woven with supplementary warp technique), sinh chok (sinh woven with discontinuous supplementary weft technique, sinh mai kom (sinhs woven with twisted multiple silk yarn technique), sinh khan (sinhs with vertical striped design) and sinh kaan (sinhs with horizontal striped design).”
The above information about the Lao sinh was taken from the book Sinh and Lao Women, written by Viengkham Nanthavongdouangsy. Viengkham and her sister Khongtong, own the Phaeng Mai Gallery which published this book. We are proud to be carrying some of their beautiful textiles and just click on the Phaeng Mai Gallery link to learn more about their gallery and view the Phaeng Mai textiles in our collection. Unfortunately their book doesn’t seem to be available in the United States, but if our online business proves successful we are definitely eager to begin carrying books such as Sinh and Lao Women that will help Americans learn more about Lao weaving and textiles.
In an article, Traditional Dress Key to Preserving Culture (March 10, 2008) as reported in the Vientiane Times, Deputy Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Bouangeun Saphouvong told participants at a recent meeting at the Lao Women’s Union that “…it is obvious some countries have changed and lost their culture, while Laos has been able to preserve it. I say from the bottom of my heart that Lao women still appreciate their beautiful culture of dress. It shows when girls from kindergarten up to women office workers wear the sinh, they look beautiful,” he said. Traditional clothing represents Lao women of each ethnic group, their beauty, charms and attractions in line with tradition. Dressmaking is a dominant art of which we are proud and its heritage has been handed down through the generations. The styles [of sinhs] not only represent the variety and abundance of our natural resources, but also the inner hearts and minds of the people, expressed through their gentle manner, attitude and behavior. These make our dress outstanding and different from other countries.”
Here at Laos Essential Artistry we have divided our sinh collection into six categories. Our own Nok Hong Kham Heritage collection, Sinhs designed by Bouala, sinhs from Sam Neua, sinhs from Nongbouathong, mattmii (ikat) sinhs, sinh/scarves sets from Vientiane, and ikat sinh fabric from Ban Saleuy.
When one is in Laos one sees an almost endless variety of sinhs/tdin sinh combinations worn by girls and women in a variety of lengths. When one goes to a market, like the Morning Market in Vientiane, one can see thousands of sinhs for sale. Most are sold without a tdin sinh (hem), and if a tdin sinh design is not woven into the body of the sinh, then the purchaser also needs to buy a tdin sinh. Consequently there is ample opportunity to express one’s sense of design and style in the sinh and tdin sinh combination they chose.
In our collection of sins designed by Bouala in Vientiane, we chose tdin sinhs that coordinate with each of the different designs. Although the sinh material is woven with the intent that it be used for making a sinh, we also believe the fabric is so beautiful it could be used in a variety of other ways.
For some reason Lao women here in the states are hesitant to wear sinhs, unless they're going to their local temple and we would like to see Lao women feel more comfortable wearing sinhs as they would in Laos, as its a great way to promote Lao culture. And of course we encourage American women to "try out" wearing a sinh. Wherever there's a Lao community, there has to be someone who sews sinhs and if there's a Lao temple/wat close by, you can go and ask if they could give you contact information for a Lao seamstress. Maybe we can start a Lao sinh movement!
Remember Lao sinhs need to be custom sewn! Once you have received the sinh fabric then you will need to have them sewn into a sinh. We wrote a blog post about this here
We are also glad to custom order sinhs and you can read more about the process in our blog post here.