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.
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.
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.
Dad and I both had our Nikon camera straps painted with Chiang Mai elephants. What a great camera accessory!
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.
The first step is collecting silk worms, which in turn spin cocoons.
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.
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.
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.
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!