Silk weaving is the oldest craft in the world of works. Thai silks are a symbolism of unique lustre, different blends and sheen. Good quality Thai silk is always hand-woven. The distinctive technicality is that the warp and weft are of the different colour, which gives Thai silk its sheen and lustre, and makes it exclusive in terms of colour tones and blends. Whenever a piece of Thai silk is held in hands and placed towards light, the overall colour tone changes depending on the angle of the light. However, with machine-woven silk, regardless of what light angle you hold it at, it looks the same.
Thai silk differs significantly from that made in the other major silk producing countries. Chinese silk is likely smooth and satiny, while Indian silk tends to be soft with usage of rich colours and a more puckered look. Italian silk has the refined and stylish look of soaring fashion, and Thai silk shows the natural blended textures and patterns that are so characteristically Southeast Asian.
Mr. Buntoon Wongseelashote, President of Thai Silk Association in his munificent contribution of knowledge with Fibre2fashion.com said that, "Thai silk is best known for its unique and exotic characteristics unparalleled by other silks. Most artificial silks imitate the look of other silks than Thai silk. Thai silks are woven from indigenous silk yarn; hand reeled from unique indigenous silk cocoons which are not available elsewhere in the world. The cocoons are yellow, long and pointed, unlike white cocoons which are round. The silk yarns are unique because the Thai adopt traditional reeling method that is passed on over several generations". "Thai silk fabrics woven from this unique silk yarns are therefore unique in texture and appearance, distinctly different and beautiful", he adds.
It has tightness in its weave which adds to its uniqueness. Good quality Thai silk begins with a warp of 2,000 threads for a 1 meter width, which produces a very tightly woven fabric. Producers of substandard quality silk may use 1,800 threads in the warp (or even sometimes as low as 1,600) along with poor weft fabric. This creates a looser weave.
Thai silk is used all over the world in haute couture, and in the monarchy of furnishings and fabrics, beautiful Silk dresses are worn by ladies, elegant Thai silk lampshades in the vestibules and bedrooms and the elegantly woven locks of Thai silk embellishing the wall. The origin of weaving is still clueless but we can trace that it might have developed out of a rope, mat weaving and basket making. The second yarn is made by upright variances between the warp and the weft.
Steps in weaving
- The process begins by raising silkworms on mulberry leaves. When they are mature, the silkworms spin silk cocoons. The cocoons are then soaked into special chemicals.
- They boil this silk with various natural or chemical dyes at 90 degrees Celsius, constantly stirring the silk to get uniform color. The dyed silk thread is then dried.
- The dried and dyed silk is then spun into yarn on wooden or plastic tubes. The women use this yarn to spin the fabulous Thai silk fabric we sell.
Types of weaving Thai Silk
- Plain weave silk
It is the simplest method of weaving. The weft thread passes over and under each thread, then under and over on the following line. Although the main method is plain, some minor variations can create textures and light variations. Warp and weft may be described as a balance weave. Plain weave can produce toneless silk fabric. Changing the colour of the warp and the weft may help to create tonal variations across the facade of the silk fabric.
This silk is one of the best kept secrets outside Thailand. The distinct "mud-mee", exactly tie-dye, silk fabric originates from northeastern part of Thailand, the Isaan region. The fabric is woven using the tie and dye technique to create designs. The patterns, colors and styles recall the cultural heritage which has been handed down from the past to the present. There are three methods to "Mud-mee" weaving. The first is to tie-dye the warps; the second is to tie-dye the wefts and the third is to tie-dye both the warps and the wefts. Any of these methods must be done before the actual weaving begins. Where to tie-dye completely depends on the weaver.
Khit is another traditional style of Thai silk weaving from the north-eastern region of Thailand. Khit is the process of placing an extra yarn into the network of tabby weave, passing from selvage to selvage thus enabling the use of a shuttle for the extra yarns. The result is a pattern in one color that floats on the surface of the weave. The supplementary yarns are placed into the weave by the assistance of special shafts that raise the warp to a certain pattern allowing the supplementary yarns to be placed alternately with the tabby weave yarns. Prior to the invention of the special shafts, shed sticks were placed in the warp to indicate the pattern for the supplementary yarns, thus restricting the repeat of the design to one repeat of the exact same pattern.
Brocade silk is a class of richly decorative shuttle-woven silk, with or without gold and silver threads and it is yet another type of silk handcraft produced in Thailand. Even though brocade silk was not originated in Thailand, local villages in the north have been able to acquire the technique and enrich it by adding its own traditions and culture.
- Striped Thai
This is a weaving technique in which Thai silk is made by sporadic movements between smooth Thai silk and rough Thai silk to create such a pattern in the material. It can be made in combination with a color pattern as well. Many patterns are available in "striped Thai silk" and it may not mean "stripes" at all. An infinite variety of designs are possible. It's very suitable for home decoration, coverings, interior design applications, wall coverings, and even clothing.
Machine and Hand made Thai Silk
Each and every piece of the hand made Thai silk symbolizes the art and emotion involved in the efforts of Thai women to make it. Since it is a human art, it is an eternal impression of the spirit, feelings, sentiments, outlook, character and verve of the weavers. The flawlessness of the piece adds meat to its beauty and magnificence. Machine woven silk is a wider, perfect industrial fabric that can be produced to ISO standards and is more suitable than hand-woven silk. Both have their distinct characteristics and holds equal importance and repute in the eyes of the buyer. On asking about the impact of Machine-made Silks on handmade Thai silks Mr. Buntoon is of the view that," The market for Thai silks and artificial silks are entirely different market. One does not impact the other".
Types of Thai Silk
Smooth Thai silk has a gleaming, satin finish. It's suitable for all purposes, particularly clothing and interior decoration. It has coats of protein that gives it the natural shine and makes it glistening and lustrous. Silk is an insect fiber and superior to any animal or plant fiber. Thai silk fiber is strong but lightweight, elastic but supple.
- Rough Thai
The rough Thai silk is beautiful and surfaced. It is not that coarse as the name suggests, in fact, it is soft. It's also called "nubby " Thai silk and Thai dupioni. It's highly suitable for silk drapes and silk curtains and silk upholstery fabric. It's also great for other interior design applications but it's a fantastic fashion fabric currently popular with designers of luxury apparel & bridal gowns. The standard width used dupioni. The varieties of this Thai silk are even appropriate for scarves. Four-ply dupioni is more commonly woven and excellent for silk drapes and silk curtains.
- Two-tone Thai
Two tones shimmering Thai silk is simply cool and extremely nice to see. The colour of the fabric changes with the angle of the light. This iridescent effect is produced by using two different colors while weaving the cloth and the contrasting colors of the warp (vertical thread) and weft (horizontal thread). The colors of the weft and warp to produce unique two-tone Thai silk can be pt according to personal choices.
Mr. Buntoon is very positive over the demand of
Thai Silks in International Markets and says, "In international market,
Thai silks are positioned in the high end of the market and priced relatively
higher than silks from elsewhere in the world". Though best quality
silks are still produced by hand, the Thai silk industry now also produces silk
using contemporary industrialized techniques. The differences are perceptible
in the regular patterns of machine made silk and in the unique artisan patterns
of hand made silk. Thai Silk can be washed only with a mild soap, and soaked in
lukewarm water fewer number of times but it is not to be squeezed. In the last
rinse, a spoon of white vinegar may be helpful in preserving the original
luster. It should be allowed to shed its water down. Thai Silk should not be
put into a washing machine. Thai Silk should be ironed on the inside just before
it is dry or later only with a damp cloth over it.