Malaysian songkets were traditionally used as part of a dowry and hung from the wedding bed to announce the wealth of the family. They also were worn at circumcisions and religious ceremonies. The finest songkets were woven on the east coast side of Terengganu, specifically the capital, Kuala Terengganu. It was there and in the surrounding villages that each house contained a loom. These textiles were sold throughout the peninsula and were worn mainly as wedding garments. Rulers presented these songkets as gifts to other rulers and their acceptance implied allegiance, and on occasion, they were given to foreign guests. Malayan court-sponsored workshops produced the very best songkets such as this one, and they were limited to royal use only.
Weaving a songket requires a high degree of skill, which takes the weaver a lot of dedication and practice to master the technique. There are a total of eleven steps in Malayan songket weaving and these processes have remained unchanged for centuries. A typical Malaysian songket takes approximately 2-3 months to complete. These magnificent pieces of traditional Malay fabric are handwoven in silk or cotton threads, and use metallic threads to form the songket’s motifs. These motifs are created using the supplementary weft technique where the metallic threads are inserted and woven into the cloth. This type of weaving is rapidly disappearing due to competition from machine-made songkets and the emergence of modern jacquard weaving looms in Malaysia.
This songket is an example of one that would have been made for royal use only. It shows gold dipped thread superimposed on a multicolored grid design. There is a center rectangle in gold that is flanked by a zig zagging pattern on both sides. On the outer sides of the zig-zags are florets with two wide beams along the corridor of the piece.
Circa: Late 19th century
Material: silk and gold-wrapped thread
Dimensions: 31" x 70"
Inventory number: TX4284
Malaysian songkets were traditionally woven in Malayan court-sponsored workshops and limited to royal use only. This is a beautiful example of the practice which took artisans many months to complete.