The Golden Triangle Hill Tribes in 1984

Last night I opened my diary from my travels in 1984 at Chaing Mai, 21st of June.   I had forgotten all about the motor bike trip into the hills to visit the local indigenous tribe.  Have you ever had that feeling when you are excited that you just want to do a little clap? That was me!! Textile heaven, exotic beyond belief and slightly dangerous ….. so thrilling.View of Akha Village Nth Thailand

We stayed as paying guests of the Village Chief.  He was a wily old man who knew the value of his tribe to tourists.  I was always troubled by the nature of the relationship between myself as a westerner and these exotic poverty stricken tribes people. “It was obvious that the tribes people didn’t like us very much, we were only there for the money we had. Uncomfortable feeling”  I suppose I felt as much of a commodity as they did … fair’s fair!

Akha Tribe Village Chief

Akha Tribe Village Chief

Posing in what turned out to be a Boy's cap.

Posing in what turned out to be a Boy’s cap!

Like many indigenous tribes clothing is one of the few expressions of personal wealth.  The silver head dress varies according to different Akha villages, they blew me away.  I couldn’t help wonder how HOT and HEAVY it must have been under all that silver.

Akha Woman Embroidering

Young Akha Woman I wonder if there is such as thing as hat hair in the Akha tribes.

By 1984 the economy of the village was supported by selling the traditional embroidery.  I felt empathy for the women because I knew how much work went into such amazing pieces ….. but not that sorry not to bargain for hours over the price of a jacket and be a bit mad with the chief of the village who charged us an exorbitant 50 baht for accommodation and food.  I looked up the exchange rate for 1984, 20 baht to the dollar! …. Perhaps I had lost perspective.

Akha Village Sewing Circle 1984

Akha Village Sewing Circle 1984

Akha Villagers traditional embroidery

I didn’t take many photos but bought postcards along the way.

Try as I might I just couldn’t turn the jacket into a fashion item when I returned home.

Akha Tribe  Womans jacket

Kerrie's Jacket Front

Akha Tribe Jacket Detail

Close up of the back of the Jacket

Jacket Detail

The Akha use tiny seeds to decorate the borders of the embroidered detail.

Embroidery Detail

Couched Applique Detail

It’s a bit too hard to think about making that tiny detail, can you see that the applique is done with the couching method whereby the colored yarn outline is stitched down my hand …wow… soooooo much work, and I bet they didn’t have good scissors to trim the appliqued fabric back.

Embroidery Detail

Take a look at the detail of the single thread embroidery

Embroidery Detail

Most of the structural work is done with a sewing machine but all of the detail is hand made

I bought a great book on the costume of the Hill Tribes when I was in Thailand, it’s still available online!

Peoples of the Golden Triangle by Paul and Elaine Lewis

Peoples of the Golden Triangle by Paul and Elaine Lewis

For those who are serious passionista’s of tribal textiles and costume here is a taste of what is in the book.

Older Boy's Cap

Older Boy’s Cap

Older Girl's Cap

Older Girl’s Cap

Woman's headdress

Woman’s headdress

Boy's Cap

Boy’s Cap

Young Man's courting Turban

Young Man’s courting Turban

Boys Cap
Boys Cap
Mans Jacket

Mans Jacket

Mans Jacket

Mans Jacket

Womans Jacket

Woman’s Jacket

Womans Jacket

Woman’s Jacket

Womans Jacket

Woman’s Jacket

Womans Jacket

Woman’s Jacket

Womans Jacket6

Woman’s Jacket

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