Cambodian krama – a great fabric since 2000 years

Date : Aug - 29 - 2022

I if you ever been to Cambodia you must probably have seen people wearing a krama scarf with a very simple or sometimes very complicated pattern. On the countryside people are wearing it around the neck or even on the head. When you go to a wedding or any other official occasion, you will see people wearing a scarf around their waist or hanging from one shoulder across the breast. The name appears in English in different writing, often also called a kroma. We will use both words here. 

Different ways to use a Khmer krama

Different ways to use a Khmer krama

What is a Cambodian krama?

Do you know what a krama is? It’s the Cambodian name for a traditional scarf that people have known very well and used in daily life for a long time. It is a piece of fabric made from cotton or silk. According to research, they found a weaver shuttle and thread that aged 200 year before AD in Cambodia’s northern Preah Vihear province. So it is shown that a kroma have been made for at least  2200 years.    

The process of making a Khmer krama

The process of making a Khmer krama

How is a krama made?

 Making a Cambodian krama can be done in  two different ways. One is the traditional way and the other one is the  modern way.  Making a krama both from cotton and silk is more complicated in the traditional way compared to the modern way. All materials such as thread, board(ក្តាររមូរ),wood teeth(ធ្មេញឈើ) ,weaver shuttle and loom, were made by hand. Our host Ms Naysim in Phnom Penh makes Khmer kroma and other scarfs in the old traditional way. She is one of the few producers of Cambodia Golden silk left in the country. Visit her for cooking together and the weaving silk.

They have to follow step by step: From the collection of cotton or silk, drying the  cotton and taking the  seeds out, beaing, rolling and spinning  to dyeing and steaming. You can watch how it is done at our host Naysim in Phnom Penh, she owns a slick farm ant fabric production. 

The process of making a Khmer krama

Weaving silk at our host's place in Phnom Penh

Weaving silk at our host’s place in Phnom Penh

Then the yarn is divided and prepared on wood teeth. In this step, Krama makers need a lot of people to help and also it takes 3 or 4 days. The last step is to weave into a Krama. They produce colors for kroma by using natural ingredients like trees, leaves and seeds. This is different from the modern way of weaving and production, where nearly all materials are imported from abroad.

How do people use a Krama?

In daily life, people like to use a Cambodian kroma that is made from cotton more than silk. Kromas made from cotton can be washed many times and are easy to keep, unlike those made from silk – we can not wash it often, or it will be destroyed. Cambodians use silk kromas mostly as a gift, a decoration or sometimes in ceremonies. The Krama was used in daily life in many different ways. People used it as clothes, a hat, a rug, table cloths,a hammock for little kids and it is also used for khmer folk games, more and more. You want to learn how to use it? Visit our host Ms. Chan Mony in Siem Reap and enjoy a delicious meal and afterwards a quick tour through how to wear a krama. 

 As we describe above, a krama is not only a piece of fabric, but it also shows the value, content, identity, culture, patience, hard work and many benefits in daily use. 

Author: Mealea Kong