Traditional Natural Dyes in Cambodian Ikat Weaving.


After the silk is harvested from the cocoons it is brought to the weavers for dyeing and preparation for weaving. The ikat is traditionally of yellow, red and black dye. The tradition was to use natural dyes. The yellow came from the bror hut tree. The red, comes from an insect nest and is called Leak Khmer or lac. Other colors used included indigo for blue and mok clua or ebony fruit for black. Today most dyeing is from chemical based dyes.


The original tree bark of the Bror Hoot tree waiting to be broken up and boiled for yellow color. Sopun is a master weaver who is working with Khemara to revive the silk industry in Cambodia. Bror Hoot bark is put out to dry before breaking up into small pieces to extract color.

Sopun survived the era of Khemr Rouge with her knowledge of natural dyes and the art of weaving intact. Here she supervises boiling bark of the Bror Hoot tree to get yellow dye. Sopun, master weaver ensures that bark boils for the correct amount of time.


The natural dye is extracted from the bark by boiling. When the water is steeped in the yellow extract from the bark, silk thread is soaked to dye it a yellow color. The bark releases its yellow tones.

Sopun's hands carefully tie threads of silk together to keep the yellow dye in the ikat pattern she designed. After she has finished tying she soaks the silk thread in the yellow.


The silk thread is tyed before dying so that the pattern is built in different colors. In ikat weaving the pattern is made from memory and is not written down.

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Last updated on March 4, 1996.
© 1996 Katharine Wardle