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Introduction to the pages on textiles and clothes

To the Philippine cultural minorities weaving and decorating textiles and clothing is an major expression of their decorative art. Most textiles are used as apparel, some simply by wrapping a piece of cloth around the body some by stitching parts together to make a blouse.

Most woven cloth is made of cotton, although the use of man-made yarns is becoming more common. One group uses bark fibre and some Moslem groups use silk to make festive clothing and clothes worn by the noblility.

A backstrap loom on which cloth of various width and length can be woven is commonly used. Textiles for commercial purposes (as by the Bontoc) are woven on looms with two or more harnesses.

To add decorative designs various techniques are applied. First there are the techniques whereby the weft or warp are woven together in different colours or patterns. Mainly in the southern Philippines, but not exclusively so, tie-dye techniques are used. This involves tying together sections of the warp into certain designs, or making patterns on ready cloth by gathering and tying-off sections of cloth.

Other decorative techniques used are embroidery, cross-stitching, appliqués, and shaping patterns or designs by using beads, shells, seeds, mother of pearl sequins and sequins of modern materials.

The designs may be abstract and geometrical or stylised and naturalistic, such as human and animal figures, plants, trees and celestial bodies. Many of the designs originate in the artistic expression of the Dongson culture, a bronze-age culture that came into being at around 800 BC when peoples from south-eastern Europe migrated eastwards. On the Asian mainland the various peoples came into contact and a new culture with its own distinct style in artistic expression developed. The centre of the Dongson culture was found in and around the area today called Tongkin. The best known artifacts dating back to that period are the large kettle-drums found throughout South East Asia, on the mainland as well as in the Indonesian archipelago. The drums were an important medium in the distribution of decorative designs.

Later migrations spread the various techniques for making artifacts and clothes as well as decorative designs to other parts of the archipelago including the Philippines

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