Following the silk trail in Thailand

Our search for the origins of silk and getting to know more about the craftsmanship behind it led us to Isaan province, a poorer and less visited region of Thailand, but home to the famous silk road. On the kind recommendation of Lina Christensen from Tactus, a specialist in finding craftmanship in Thailand – we got introduced to Wasan Sombatmaithai who spent the entire day, teaching us about the process of silk, from moth to fabric. He got his expert knowhow from his grandfather, who passed it down to his father and uncle, and today we visited their three family run shops and two factories around Surin.

The smooth feel of the silk yarn when the sericin has been removed

The smooth feel of the silk yarn when the sericin has been removed

In Isan, it is not uncommon to find entire villages who practice the delicate craftmanship of carefully breeding and farming the silk moth, dying and weaving by hand, and caring for every detail of the natural protein fiber. 

Dying the yarn by hand at Wasan's factory

Dying the yarn by hand at Wasan's factory

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Most factories have capacity to weave by machine – giving the fabric a clean surface. But the more traditional way of making Thai silk is by hand, which gives a more textured feel to the fabric. This fantastic skill is traditionally passed on from mother to daughter in the villages here in Isaan. This is great way for women to be employed while being able to care for their children at home. 

A mother in the village, famous for her hand weaving technique.

A mother in the village, famous for her hand weaving technique.

Her daughter watching her weave.

Her daughter watching her weave.

The meticulous process of beaming - organising every thread of the yarn to make fabric

The meticulous process of beaming - organising every thread of the yarn to make fabric

Silk cones in Wasan's factory

Silk is no simple process. Each step requires the utmost skill. And you will not understand your end product (stiffness, softness, colour), if you do now know which type of cocoon, numbers of threads, how many shafts used for making the fabric, and something like 15 other variables. We cannot thank Wasan and his family enough for making us a whole lot smarter. 

Wasan, his beautiful wife and their cute daughter. Her nickname is Mai which means silk in thai. 

Wasan, his beautiful wife and their cute daughter. Her nickname is Mai which means silk in thai. 

The world famous yellow Thai cocoon

The world famous yellow Thai cocoon

Veronica DSouza