Thailand, Travel

Thai Silk Weaving

November 16, 2015

Thai Silk Weaving

After walking through the traditional Thai style house that Jim Thompson built in Bangkok, we walked along the canal behind the house. The guide was taking us to see the silk manufacturing area or at least that is what he called it. Several times he repeated that this was the Muslim neighborhood of Bangkok as if that was relevant somehow. Along the canal, we pass several small food carts that had set up chairs along the covered walkway as if it was a restaurant. While the Thai people are too polite to stare at these two western girls walking through their neighborhood, it was clear they were surprised to see us outside a tourist area. We crossed a footbridge that led us into the neighborhood. Being that it was a weekday morning, the neighborhood was quiet as most people were at work or school. The buildings were closely packed together, but well-kept and cared for.

Thai Silk Weaving

Walking down the canal path on the opposite side of the Jim Thompson House, we turned into a small street or in Thai, a soi. Most people would call it an alleyway, but since people lived on the street, it seemed unfair to call it an alleyway. The guide announced we had arrived! Arrived, arrived where, I thought. We entered what looked like a small shack, nothing like the neat, orderly houses facing the canal. An older Thai man sat just inside and spoke to our guide. We took off our shoes as is customary in Thailand. The guide explained that this man worked with Jim Thompson and still manufactured silk for the company. The guide urged us to go up some small stairs without explaining why and for a minute I was worried about what I was going up to see.

Thai Silk Weaving

We ducked under a pipe that had bright blue silk drying on it. On the way up, you could see a man standing over huge boiling pots of water. The guide explained he was dying silk. Emerging at the top of the stairs, we had to duck again into an attic space. Looking up, I was in awe! There before me were row upon row of neon bright skeins of silk hanging to dry. The colors were so intense; I had to blink in order to focus on them. To get further into the room, we had to crouch down under the first set of silk skeins. The color screamed out at me to touch it, but I didn’t dare in case I would be ruining the process. Once woven together as a piece of fabric, the silk would not be so bright, but would still be beautiful.

Thai Silk Weaving

Thai Silk Weaving

Thai Silk Weaving

The floor was covered in pieces of wood, and I was conscious of trying to avoid splinters but also was extremely aware that what I was experiencing was special. I wasn’t sure how many people get to do this or know that it is an option to do, as I am sure that Mr. Aood doesn’t have busloads of tourists coming to his shop. However, he was extremely generous with his time. Upon returning to the ground floor, we went further into the shop, which had a lived in feel. In a corner of the shop, out of sight from the main door, sat a woman weaving silk into fabric. While I have seen wool woven, the silk weaving processed seemed more delicate and detailed. The silk is so fine; I am not even sure how the woman saw what she was doing. As you can see, the results are beautiful.

Thai Silk Weaving

This beautiful silk would probably not be produced here today for two reasons. For one the Muslim community, I learned after returning home, in this area of Bangkok came from Muslims fleeing from Vietnam from the 14th to 18th century. These people helped the Thai fight the Burmese in 1767 and were awarded this land for helping. These people had brought the fine silk weaving skills with them. This too would have faded if Jim Thompson had not revived the trade in the late 1940s. Even today, most of the weaving has been moved from this neighborhood into factories and may not be there forever.

Getting there: My recommendation would be to find a tour to take you. While there are signs, I am not sure you could find it on your own. Also, Mr. Aood does not speak much English, and while I am sure you would be welcome, you might have a hard time communicating. My tour was provided by the Thailand Tourism Board as a part of attending TBEX Asia. Here is one tour I found, but I cannot speak to the quality or prices of the tour. I also found two articles with instructions on how to get there on your own, one is from Travelfish.org and the other is Tour Bangkok Legacies.

Have you been to one of these weavers on a tour? Tell us how you got there in the comments.

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15 Comments

  • Reply Nusrat November 16, 2015 at 8:44 pm

    Gorgeous pictures and what an incredible experience! I have been to Thailand many years ago but I’d like to visit again and do the not so touristy spots.

    • Reply Tiffany November 16, 2015 at 8:46 pm

      Thank you very much! It was so nice to feel like I was seeing something special. I have been dying to share this since I was there. Thanks for dropping by!

  • Reply Caitlin Jean November 17, 2015 at 8:02 am

    I absolutely love silk clothing. Will add it to my Bangkok itinerary 🙂

    • Reply Tiffany November 17, 2015 at 8:04 am

      Oh yes, it is a must then. It was so cool to see it being made.

  • Reply Peter Thomsen November 17, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    Very internestig.
    Silk is very beautiful. If you have time you should visit The Jim Thompson Farm.
    It is outside og Bangkok but not that far away.
    But look at the website first, because it is only open for visitors in december and january
    It is “touristy ” but you will see all from egg of silkworm to finished silk.
    http://www.jimthompsonfarm.com/

    • Reply Tiffany November 17, 2015 at 5:53 pm

      Oh yes, my guide mentioned it when we were at the Jim Thompson house. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in Thailand long enough to go. It sounded like a great experience. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Reply Sarah @ 5 O'Clock Design Co. November 18, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    Oh my goodness! What an incredible experience! My husband went to Thailand before we were married and I am so jealous of his pictures. I have a soft spot for textile production and this post makes me want to visit even more!
    Sarah @ 5 O’Clock Design Co. recently posted…DressemberMy Profile

    • Reply Tiffany November 18, 2015 at 5:04 pm

      Oh you have to go! I loved seeing the silk being dried and then woven. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Reply Willow November 19, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    Thailand is on my bucket list, and now so is visiting a silk factory!
    Willow recently posted…Sweet Potato and Black Bean PinwheelsMy Profile

    • Reply Tiffany November 20, 2015 at 12:44 am

      You will love it. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Reply Diane November 19, 2015 at 8:13 pm

    What a great experience! I have just recently found my love for fiber arts – started with knitting and now spinning on a wheel. I am already wanting to try my hand at dyeing and weaving. I’ll be putting Thailand on my short list. Thanks for sharing! 😀
    Diane recently posted…What’s Behind the Makeup?My Profile

    • Reply Tiffany November 20, 2015 at 12:47 am

      Then you will really love it. I also knit occasionally and it helped me appreciate it. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Reply Katechka November 20, 2015 at 1:16 am

    Wow, this looks like a truly unique travel experience. I like how you are not scared to even express your scares and worries of what comes next when they take you to a strange place. I hope I will have a chance to visit East Asia too.
    Katechka recently posted…Forget Disneyland, go to Parc Astérix!My Profile

    • Reply Tiffany November 20, 2015 at 7:52 am

      Thanks! I think it is good to be aware of your feelings in situations as it keeps you aware and can keep you safe. I hope you get to go. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Reply Friday Favorites - A Girl and Her PassportA Girl and Her Passport November 20, 2015 at 10:00 am

    […] Thai Silk Weaving – After leaving the Jim Thompson House, we walked to some traditional Thai silk weavers’ stores to watch the dying and weaving of silk. […]

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