This complex in Kuala Terengganu was opened in May 2011, officiated by the then Permaisuri Agung, Tuanku Nur Zahirah. She is the Sultanah of Terengganu.
This complex is set up with the main purpose of promoting ‘songket‘ (an intricately embroidered piece of silk or cotton) and the management of it is under two agencies: Tuanku Nur Zahirah Foundation and Terengganu Entrepreneur Development Foundation.
On the other hand, another organisation, TIDE, which stands for Terengganu International Design Excellence, is in-charge of the designing aspect of the ‘songket’ by injected fresh ideas into traditional designs and motifs.
Right now, there are about eight apprentices at the centre, learning the skills of ‘songket’ weaving. In fact, I understand that they are paid a monthly allowance of RM600, so that the tradition doesn’t die off. The course duration is three months.
There are eleven processes in producing a piece of ‘songket’.
1. Pattern designing (mereka corak)
2. Dyeing (mencelup warna)
3. Spindling (menerai)
4. Warping (menganing)
5. Winding (menggulung)
6. Sleying (menyapuk)
7. Setting up (menyediakan kek)
8. Forming the weaving shed (mengarat)
9. Plain weaving (menenun)
10. Tying string patterns (mengikat butang)
11. Supplementary weft weaving (menyongket)
As you can see, handwoven ‘songket’ is tedious work. I found this article in the Borneo Post that explained the entire process better than I could.
The Process Of Handwoven Songket
The first is planning the design of the songket pattern (mereka corak). It may come as a surprise to most people to find out that mathematics is used prominently in songket design and weaving. Every aspect must be counted, from marking out the final design on sheets of graph paper, to the number of threads on the loom.
The second stage involves dyeing of silk yarns (thread) (mencelup warna). The silk threads are usually purchased in raw and in hank form. The silk hanks are then dipped in a boiling cauldron of dye. Afterwards, the excess dye is rinsed out with water and the silk hanks are hung out to dry.
Then, the silk hanks are unwound on a spindle and re-wound onto bobbins (menerai) so they are ready for the warp and weft processes.
In general weaver-speak, the warp refers to the yarns stretched out lengthwise on the loom while the weft refers to the yarns over and under the warp in a perpendicular direction.
Arranging the warp on a frame (menganing) forms the base of the eventual woven fabric. Next they are wound onto a warp board (menggulung) before they are sleyed through the reed (menyapuk).
Then the warp is wound onto the loom, tying the ends of the warp threads to the loom at an even tension (menyediakan kek).
During the eighth stage, the weaver will make the frames for the string heddles and thread the string heddles to form the weaving shed (mengarat). The heddles help to separate the warp threads so that the shuttle containing the weft threads can pass through.
The last three stages are what come to most people’s minds when they think about songket – plain-weave weaving (menenun) where the weaver launches a shuttle with weft threads through the shed created by the opening of the upper and lower warp threads, tying the hand string loop leashes following the draft pattern (mengikat butang) and weaving the songket pattern with the metallic yarns (menyongket).
After visitors to the complex are taken on a tour of the process of making the ‘songket’, they can head upstairs, where there is a gallery to showcase the various ‘songket’ products and their uses. Some of these products are also for sale.
Price depends on various factors, like design, material, quality and size. Obviously, the more intricate a design, the higher the price. Some of the pieces of ‘songket’ sold here are priced at RM8,000 each.
Prices of ‘songket’ may appreciate over time, depending on their uniqueness. In fact, prices of ‘songket’ have been going up steadily because these are handwoven, time-consuming, and unfortunately, a dying art.
Kompleks Tuanku Nur Zahirah, located just by Sungai Jeram (Jeram River), is built in such a way that it is accessible by road and boat.
Kompleks Tuanku Nur Zahirah
Add: Lot 11654, Jalan Teluk Pasu, Kg. Tanjung Bunut, Mukim Manir, 21200 Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu.
‘Songket’ products made here are also sold at:
Add: 15-2, Bangunan PESAT, Jalan PJU 5/208, The Strand Kota Damansara, 47810 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
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