Khit Lai Somdet Dress [photo cr. Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles]
Khit (ขิด), which means “to raise” or “to pick” in the local dialect, is a form of brocade – a patterned textile that has a set of vertical threads (warps) and horizontal threads (wefts) creating the fabric’s ground, plus an additional set of thicker, horizontal patterning threads (supplementary wefts). In khit, the supplementary wefts are continuous from one side of the fabric to the other and the weaver inserts them by lifting the appropriate warp yarns in a predetermined sequence. A painstaking and intricate technique, the weaving of khit requires extraordinary skill and patience.
From Local Craft to the Fashion World
During Her early visits to Northeast Thailand (also known as Isaan), Her Majesty Queen Sirikit the Queen Mother (then Queen Consort) was presented with locally woven silks on cushions by the villagers as a sign of respect. These traditional Isaan cushions. Commonly used in the home and as gifts, are particularly popular for presentation to monks at merit-making functions. The cushions were decorated with narrow bands of cotton khit.
Traditional Isaan Cushion [photo cr. Mohn Khit]
Struck by the beauty of khit, Her Majesty selected one of the narrow patterns and asked weavers to repeat it to create a wider cloth suitable for fashion or decorating. Sales opportunities for the weavers were thus increased. The pattern chosen by Her Majesty for this innovation was based on a traditional one, but the weavers renamed it Lai Somdet (ลายสมเด็จ) or “The Queen’s Pattern”.
Khit Lai Somdet [photo cr. Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles]
In 1982, during a visit to Nong Bua Lamphu, then a district in Udon Thani province in the Northeast, Her Majesty received a piece of silk matt mii (ikat) expertly woven by Mrs. Suna Sibutkhot. Impressed by Mrs. Suna’s skill, Her Majesty asked if she would be willing to join the SUPPORT Foundation – an organization created by Her Majesty to preserve and promote traditional crafts – and try weaving khit. Mrs. Suna mastered the khit technique so well that Her Majesty later recruited her to teach at the SUPPORT workshop at Chitralada Villa in Bangkok. This, plus many award-winning pieces of khit she wove, led to her recognition in 2002 as a master teacher of khit. Today, her daughter, Waruni Sibutkhot, continues her legacy.
Mrs. Suna Sibutkhot [photo cr. M2F]
Khit Skirt Patterned with Water Lily Dye [photo cr. IG: pearypie]
Khit Dress [photo cr. IG: pearypie]
Khit Fabrics [photo cr. Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles]
*This article was created with special help from the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles
For the Love of Her People Her Majesty Queen Sirikit Creates the SUPPORT Foundation by the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles