All About Thai Silk

Head to Thailand and you’re bound to find a wealth of silk scarves and garments for sale. Silk goods are some of the country’s most popular souvenirs. Read all about this beautiful material!

The Legend of Silk

Empress Si Ling of China, sipping tea beneath a mulberry tree, found a silkworm cocoon floating in her cup. When she picked it out, she found the filament of the cocoon unraveling – that, according to folklore was the origin of silk!

The story goes that the Chinese kept the technique of silk-making a secret for millennia. Anyone caught smuggling silkworm eggs, mulberry seeds or cocoons faced death. A Chinese princess beat the system when she married an Indian prince and sneaked out silkworm eggs to India in her headdress!

Thai Silk Production

Truth or myth, silk making has been known in Asia since ancient times. Archaeologists have found silk fiber in the 3000-year-old ruins of Ban Chiang, Thailand, thought to be Southeast Asia’s earliest civilization. Today, Thai silk manufacture is centered in the northeastern Korat Plateau.

Mudmee refers to the traditional zoomorphic and geometric motifs of northeastern Thailand. Once, the lush forests of this region produced natural dyes. Sadly, extensive deforestation has led to the use of chemical dyes.

Characteristics of Thai Silk

Thai silk, though soft has a mildly coarse feel. Its threads are bumpy, a quality that renders it highly suitable for hand weaving.

Thai silk comes in two types. The smoother variety is favored for garment making and interior décor. The rough or “nubby” variety, called Thai dupioni, has a different texture that makes it suited for heavy drapes or upholstery with cotton backing. Double-toned silk, woven with a different color for the warp and weft produces a shifting, shimmery effect. Striped Thai silk uses alternating rough and smooth silk threads to produce a distinctive pattern in the fabric.

Caring For Thai Silk

The sheen and texture of Thai silk are best maintained with dry-cleaning. Alternatively, it can be hand washed in tepid water and mild soap and shade dried flat –­ no wringing! With care, Thai silk can endure for more than a century!