The Akha tribes live in the hill country of northern Thailand in what is called "the golden triangle." They are still living close to the traditional ways of their ancestors, though modern society is rapidly encroaching on their territory with all its problems.
The Akha women have traditionally spun cotton on little drop spindles as they walk the 20 minutes to the fields. Their locally grown cotton is dyed into bright colors, woven on looms out in the street and embroidered into colorful shapes.
Pictured above is some cloth from the collection of Judy Bossert which she bought in Thailand in the early 70's.
This picture was also taken by Judy Bossert and is several Akha women in traditional dress. Each different tribe in the golden triangle wears a distinctive style of clothing. The Akha are known for their colorful beaded headdresses.
The Akha women spin cotton which grows in the streets of their villages. Their spindles are lightweight, and handmade from local hard woods. The spindle can be used to spin a variety of fibers as seen in this photo. This is a fast spindle and quite a bit of yarn can be produced with it. The Akha tribes spin mostly singles for their weaving, and plied yarn for embroidery. The skeins above are spun by the author (Connie Delaney) are all plied.
Here I am spinning cotton with an Akha spindle. This is a very fast spindle which can be thrown off the knee for high speeds. With the spindle revolving so rapidly the spinner must work fast to capture the twist into yarn. Here you can see the length of yarn I am able to get off on throw of the spindle - and it is still spinning fast!
To ply the singles into a two-ply yarn you first wind each spindle full off into tight balls. These balls fit nicely in the palm of the hand to be plied back onto the same spindle.
For more information about the Akha tribes go to http://www.akha.com