Sustainability of the Traditional Malaysian Handwoven Songket through Education and Innovation

Ms June Ngo
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The traditional Malaysian handloom songket weavers can continue to exist, evolve and be able to compete more aggressively with the machine made songket and other handwoven textiles from neighbouring countries through education and innovation. Songket is a magnificent traditional Malay fabric beautifully woven in silk or cotton yarns, using gold or coloured metallic threads to form the traditional or contemporary songket motifs. It belongs to the brocade group of textiles and the songket motifs are formed using the traditional menyongket (a Malay word meaning to embroider) technique. The aims of this on-going PhD research are to teach basic textile science to songket weavers and produce a range of contemporary songket with good draping qualities which is light and comfortable, suitable for fashion wear, with the intention of capturing a broader apparel market. This is made possible by manipulating and exploiting the relationship between textile design and textile science.

This paper gives an insight into an on-going research to create more interesting textural effects on the Malaysian handwoven songket while retaining the usage of the simple traditional songket kek (handloom) and the traditional Malay motifs. The social economic objective of this research is to create a lucrative cottage industry that can be easily undertaken by kampong (village) weavers as it does not require huge investment. It is an ideal project to support and promote throughout Malaysia as it provides the opportunity to kampong women to earn extra income in producing contemporary handwoven songket marketable both locally and internationally. Thus, songket weaving can continue to exist as a home-based industry for the kampong folks.

Keywords: Handwoven Songket, Songket Weavers, Education, Textile Science, Innovation, Light-weight Songket, Cottage Industry, Home-based Industry
Stream: Cultural Sustainability
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Sustainability of the Traditional Malaysian Handwoven Songket through Education and Innovation

Ms June Ngo

Lecturer, Design Technology Programme,
Faculty of Applied and Creative Arts, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS)


After graduating from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia, I have started my career as a tutor in Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas). Subsequently, I went on to pursue my Master’s degree at the Philadelphia University in United States where I won the President’s Award for being the best graduate student. Upon my return to Unimas as a lecturer, I have been active in the textile design fraternity and have won the Bronze medal award from the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment of Malaysia for the Invention/ Innovation Competition. I have also managed to provide consultation services and conduct seminars to leading textile craft players such as The Tun Jugah Foundation and The Malaysian Handicraft Corporation. While at Unimas, I have carried out various researches that include printing with natural dyes as well as producing manuals for yarn dyeing, and authored various technical papers that vary from textile design to implementing science and technology to increase texture quality and productivity. Interest and passion have motivated me to pursue my doctorate degree at Science University of Malaysia (USM). My current research involves transforming the traditional Malaysian Songket into an innovative textile for broader usage.

Ref: S06P0287