Malaysia is a country with a rich culture heritage that includes exquisite woven textiles. As part of this heritage, Kain Limar (Limar fabric) is one of the finest fabrics woven in Malaysia. The nobility commonly used it as dress fabric and ceremonial attire in the 16th century. However, little is known today about Kain Limar in Malaysia, principally because there are no written documents on its practice and development. Malay weavers traditionally passed their knowledge only to their family members. The teaching of producing Limar fabrics was restricted to close family members and only on an oral and daily practice basis. Thus, the art of weaving Kain Limar has been forgotten and leading to stagnation. Most of the beautiful Kain Limar can now be found only in museums, personal collections and antique shops.
Though there are still hand-woven Songket (fabric which is hand-woven in silk or cotton, and intricately patterned with gold or silver threads) in Malaysia, lack of documentation on the Limar producing technique led to the slow disappearance of this weaving tradition in Malaysia nowadays. Understanding the historical background of the Malay textile will lead to an appreciation of the design in weaving Limar fabrics and of the tedious work involved in making it.
Weft threads are woven one by one to create many types of pattern in Kain Limar, such as ‘Limar corak penuh’ (Limar with full-patterned design), ‘Limar corak bertabur’ (Limar with scattered motifs or spotted pattern), ‘Limar corak jalur’ (Limar with striped pattern), ‘Limar tenggarun’ if the stripe pattern mixed with Songket, 'Limar corak siku keluang' (Limar with bat-elbow pattern), 'Limar corak tapak catur' (Limar with chess sites pattern' and 'Limar corak berayat / corak bersurat' (Limar with the pattern of Quranic verses). Also, the motifs in Kain Limar are mainly derived from flora, fauna and some are from the ancient beliefs.
Typically, the motif in Kain Limar is known as ‘bunga’ (flower). Also, most motifs in Kain Limar are mainly named after different flowers, although some are plants like the ‘pucuk rebung’ (bamboo shoot) and ‘pucuk susut sembunyi’ (the hidden flower buds). Motifs such as 'tampuk kesemak' (persimmon calyx), 'bunga bintang' (flower with star-shaped), 'bunga melur' (jasmine flower), 'tampuk manggis' (calyx of mangosteen) and 'motif berayat' (Quranic verses) are among the popular motifs in Kain Limar. Also, motifs in Kain Limar generally are similar with motifs which can be found in Kain Songket. For Kain Limar, the motifs are done by tying the weft yarns and dying them in many colours from natural dye (mostly garnet or dark red colour, which can be found from the roots of the Noni tree). The patterns are then woven into beautiful and classic setting which in the past were reserved for the nobility and the royalty from the East coast especially in Kelantan and Terengganu.
Also see the "Kain Songket / Songket Fabric".