Shopping for Thai Silk in Thailand
Thailand is world famous for its silk, particularly the hand-woven variety and a style known as mud mee. Hand-woven Thai silk is unique and special for many reasons. Everything is done by hand; from silk worms, to spinning, to dying, to weaving .. which is often done on handmade looms.
So Thai silk shows a very personal quality .. it's not perfect. As with people, hand-woven silk has tiny flaws and is a bit rougher than ultra smooth machine silk that most westerners are accustomed to seeing.
Thai silk has a homey quality that sets it apart from other fabrics. Each piece is absolutely unique and would be impossible to reproduce.
Hand weaving gives Thai silk a special shine because of the manner it catches and reflects light. Thai silk is also hand dyed which results in very small variations in the colors.
Mud Mee silk is characterized by its unique pearlescent colors and fuzzed edged patterns.
Checking Thai Silk
How can you know the silk you want to buy is really 100 percent Thai silk and not something else? Think about the cost, the weave, the sheen, and the print.
- Silk in Thailand is reasonably priced but not cheap. Most silk items range from Bt 600 upward. The same thing in imitation silk is far less than that. Note: Just because it says on the label "100% Thai silk" doesn't mean that it is.
- Weave is another way to figure out if the item is real silk. Real silk is totally handmade using all natural fibers and shows small faults where the threads are joined. Polyester is machine-made and the surface is perfect.
Sheen is a third factor. A light test shows whether
a piece is real or fake. One hundred percent Thai silk has one color
lengthwise threads and a different color
across the width, which creates a luster
that makes Thai silk unique.
A piece of 100% silk held up to the light changes color as you move it to different angles. Imitation silk stays the same color.
- Print on real Thai silk is only on one side with its outline visible on the other side. Hold both sides up to the light. The full print side will change colors but the other side won't. Fake silk shows the pattern and colors on one side, but a plain color on the other side. Both sides glisten white when held up to the light.
A final check is the burn test. A thread of 100% Thai silk leaves a fine ash and has the odor of hair, but stops burning when the flame is removed. Fake silk drips, makes black smoke and continues to burn after the flame is removed.
If you buy your silk from a reliable source, you won't have to go to such lengths.
Where to Buy Thai Silk
Actually, the very best place to buy Thai silk is from the village where the silk is produced. This puts the maximum percentage of the purchase price into the hands of the hard-working villagers. Even better is to visit the village - watch Thai silk being made - buy your silk on the spot. One such opportunity is Ban Sakool.
Ban Sakool silk is made by hand on handmade looms in the village, population 200. The nearest town is Khukan with a population of 2,000 and it is 12 miles away. The biggest city, and provincial capital is Si Saket, population 25,000 and 40 miles from the village. The village is about 350 miles from Bangkok in the N.E. portion of Thailand, known as Isaan.
The people of the village are all farmers, including all the women. In their free time and during seasonal breaks in farming, some of the women weave silk to supplement their income which is about $150 per month per family.
Some of the houses in the village are made of wood and some only of tin sheeting. Friendly dogs, chickens and ducks roam here and there. And then, of course, there are the children; ever smiling, thin but not skinny, shinny clean in their school uniforms in the morning, dusty and bedraggled (but still smiling shyly) when school is out.
As one woman weaves her silk on a handmade loom, several friends and relatives will invariably be around chatting, helping and taking turns. It is all a very personal approach and about as different from the factories in China that product machine made silk as is possible. The women who weave Thai silk can be at home with their family and friends and work at their own pace.
Thai Silk - Commercial Options
Thai silk production is centered around Khon Kaen, Korat and Surin. It is available in Bangkok and throughout the country. Prices in Bangkok are fairly competitive.
Most cities in Issan have government sponsored shops where you will be getting 100% Thai silk.
Khon Kaen's Industrial and Community Education College has a special Thai Silk Exhibition Hall right on the campus.
Jim Thompson House in Bangkok is famous for Thai silk although prices are a bit high.
Read @ History of Silk