Laos: Chok & Kit

Lao-Tai weavers introduce patterns into their weaving in several ways, one of which is by inserting extra weft yarns after each pick of ground weave.

Two types of supplementary weft patterning are used: kit and chok

1) kit (continuous supplementary weft patterning). Only one colour of supplementary pattern thread is used per pick, and that pattern thread continues across the width of the fabric and is inserted with a shuttle.

Seen from the front:

continuous supplementary weft transparent background flat front

Seen from the back:

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Some examples of kit:

Double-click this image to see it at full-resolution – the individual weft threads are visible mid-way across the image:

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The white & teal piece below is mostly kit executed with a shuttle, but the centres of the diamond motifs have been highlighted in a different colour (mostly visible on the side we cannot see) using chok technique.

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2) chok (discontinuous supplementary weft patterning). Two or more coloured pattern threads are added to the ground weave. Each coloured pattern yarn is used just for that section of the pattern. Pattern threads are usually inserted by hand.

Seen from the front:

discontinuous supplementary weft transparent background flat front

Seen from the back:

discontinuous supplementary weft transparent background flat back

Chok is woven with the reverse side of the cloth facing the weaver so that she can manipulate the supplementary pattern threads easily:

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In the above photo, the weaver’s sinh (skirt) above uses chok in most picks (red, blue & cream pattern yarns used discontinuously), and there are a few picks of kit where the cream pattern yarn continues right across the width of the fabric.

This video shows a weaver inserting the supplementary weft pattern threads. The green ground weft has already been passed and selected warp threads raised where the pattern threads are to show on the front of the fabric (we are looking at the back):

Here is a more contemporary use of chok patterning to create a sun and bird motif. The reverse side is seen at left on the loom, and to the right is a piece the weaver is using for reference. She also has an outline of the motif on a piece of paper pinned under her work and is using her fingers to pick pick up the warp threads she wishes to pass the pattern threads under. Traditional motifs can also be seen in red and green.

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Lao-Tai looms often have a pattern storage system, so that the warp threads to be raised on each row of the pattern do not have to be picked out manually every time they are executed. To see how one of these systems work, visit Lao-Tai Pattern Heddles.

Images in this post were taken at Phaeng Mai Gallery in Vientiane, and Ock Pop Tok in Luang Prabang.

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