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Umbrella and Silk Factories Near Chiang Mai

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Umbrella Factory

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, Chiang Mai is a hub for handicrafts. Silk factories, pottery factories, and umbrella factories abound. We stopped by an umbrella factory and a silk factory on the way to Chiang Mai.

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At the umbrella factory, we were able to witness first hand how these exotic, quintessential Asian shade-providers were made, step by step. There are many artists who hand-paint the near finished products. They were eager to offer their services to hand paint any article of clothing or accessory you carried, such as your shirt or bag. The paint is semi-permanent, so you don’t have to worry about it washing out, if you are careful.

Dad getting a dragon

Dad getting a dragon

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The final product, and it only cost about $5 USD!

Talk about a great personalized souvenir! My brother had a dragon painted on his bag from his work on the movie set of The Butler.

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Dad and I both had our Nikon camera straps painted with Chiang Mai elephants. What a great camera accessory!

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Silk Factory

Silk is an important product in the Chiang Mai area. We visited one of many silk factories, where we saw the various stages of silk extraction and processing.

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The first step is collecting silk worms, which in turn spin cocoons.

Silk worms

Silk worms

Silk worm cocoons

Silk worm cocoons

Silk Extraction

Silk extraction is the next step, where boiling water and a spindle are used to separate the silk threads. A single thread filament is too thin to use, so women must combine many threads to make a thicker, usable fiber. This is done by hand-reeling the threads onto a wooden spindle, producing a uniform strand of raw silk. The tedious task takes about 40 hours to make half a kilogram of silk.

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The Dying Process

The silk is soaked in water and bleached in hydrogen peroxide before the dying process in order to remove the natural yellow color of Thai silk yarn.

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Weaving

Once the silk is washed and dried, it is woven on a traditional hand-operated loom. Hand-woven Thai silk is extremely unique in that each silk fabric is one of a kind and can not be duplicated through commercial means. Thai silk has a very distinguished luster with a sheen that has two unique blends, one color for the weft and another for the warp. In other words, the color of the silk changes when held at different angles against light.

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How can you test Thai silk to see if it is authentic? Burn it! If it smells like burning hair, it is the real deal. If it smells like burning plastic, it is synthetic. However, if you go around burning silk scarves to test authenticity, you might make some silk merchants pretty peeved!

As always, thanks for stopping by!

♥ Lindsay

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7 Responses to Umbrella and Silk Factories Near Chiang Mai

  1. jarvis white May 30, 2014 at 7:13 PM #

    Someone please send me a factory direct address for Men’s Silk Shirts…

    • Lindsay May 31, 2014 at 10:29 AM #

      Hi Jarvis, As this was part of a tour, I don’t have information on a direct factory address for men’s silk shirts. May want to try Googling it 😉

  2. Glenn August 28, 2014 at 11:18 PM #

    Do you know the name of some silk factories in Chiang Mai. I lived there for 6 months and lost names of factories. Lived in Neimanhammin. Currently back in San Diego.

    • Lindsay September 13, 2014 at 4:03 PM #

      Hey Glenn, I didn’t catch the name of the silk factory that we visited, I’m sorry.

  3. jeff May 29, 2016 at 5:11 AM #

    I recall being told that the silk (worm) produced in and around Chiang Mai differed from the more traditional producers. Something about silk thread length or the way it was woven. Can you fill me in. many thanks

    • Lindsay July 17, 2016 at 2:13 PM #

      Hmm. I’m not sure Jeff. That sounds interesting, although they didn’t mention that. I just did a quick Google search, and it seems like there are a couple of different silk worm varietals in the region, the kind that feed on mulberry and the Eri silkworm, which was introduced to Thailand more recently, origins in Assam, India. The Eri apparently has more of a cotton-wool consistency. Here is the site: http://www.tammachat.com/2008/02/eri-silk-new-in-thailand.html

      Also, one cocoon consists of one thread that is around 500 meters long, although that must be threaded with others to make a strong enough fiber to use. The natural color is gold.

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