Silk traditions appeared in Cambodia in the tenth century. Though Khmer weaving techniques are quite similar to the ones of the neighboring countries, the distinctive character of Cambodian typical textiles lies in the sophisticated patterns that they feature. Here is an overview of the most traditional textiles in Cambodia, from the simplest to the most complex one:
Phamung is a piece of solid silk that is woven with threads of various colors for warp and weft in order to produce a rainbow-colored effect. It is generally produced by hand on a traditional loom using two frames.
Chorebap features geometrical motifs resembling small jasmine flowers, which are generally considered a symbol for good luck in Cambodia and are often used as an offering to Buddha. These motifs appear in relief as if they were embroidered on the fabric because they were made with the Brocade technique: at the same time as the threads are being individually woven into the end product, the weaver uses multiple frames of the loom to add geometrical reliefs that were planned ahead when preparing the loom.
Chorebap was anciently praised as the rarest and finest of Eastern silk fabrics as it was traditionally interwoven with gold or silver threads. In ancient Cambodia, it used to be worn by royalty during ceremonies, and given as a royal tribute to ambassadors, imperial ministers, and foreign kings. Nowadays, it is traditionally worn during formal events such as weddings or religious ceremonies.
Lboeuk is a piece of silk brocade whose motifs in diamond shape are common in Cambodia. Unlike chorebap that display motifs in relief that have a different color than the fabric itself, lboeuk motifs are mainly woven tone on tone.
Textiles produced with the brocade technique—a supplementary weft technique that enables the ornamental motifs in relief to be produced by a supplementary, non-structural, weft in addition to the standard weft that holds the warp threads together – have long been appreciated by kings and royal members of Cambodia because of the technical prowess that is required from the weaver to produce entirely by hand these specific patterns. Today, lboeuk is often used to make scarves and fabrics for official ceremonies.
Hôl is traditionally used to make pidans, large pieces of silk decorated with colored sacred motifs that are customarily used for religious purposes. Pidans usually depict designs that recall the life of Buddha, or typical fauna and flora of Cambodia.
These designs are made by hand using the traditional Ikat technique that consists in dyeing the weft threads beforehand in order to make the colored motifs appear progressively during the weaving process.
Hôl lboeuk is one of the most refined Cambodian silk fabrics, combining Brocade and Ikat techniques. It is one of the most complex weaving method as it requires, on one hand, that the weft threads are tie-dyed beforehand according to specific patterns in order to make the colored designs appear during the weaving, and on the other hand, that multiple frames are used on the loom in order to create geometrical motifs in relief. This time-consuming process is mostly used to make scarves that are worn during special occasions and official ceremonies in Cambodia.