The Magical History of Thai Silk, the Best Souvenir in Thailand!
Thai Silk Is The Perfect Souvenir: Beautiful, Lightweight And Affordable
In a land full of beautiful objects, Thai silk stands out as a great souvenir and the ideal present for friends and family at home. It’s light, it’s colorful, it’s traditional and it’s versatile, with everything from scarves to dresses on offer in shops and markets all over the country.
Where did the Thai silk story start?
Although Thai silk seems like a handicraft that’s been in production for millennia, the modern-day story actually started pretty recently. Back in the early 20th century, a failed architect called Jim Thompson ended up in Bangkok working for the US security services. Disillusioned with life back in the states he didn’t want to go home (sound familiar?!) and instead decided to invest all of his worldly goods into the Thai silk industry.
This was a pretty big deal, seeing as the Thai silk industry was basically non-existent at the time! Thailand was importing silk rather than producing it in-house, but Thompson’s cash changed all that. By the late 1940s and 1950s the catwalks of the West were being treated to the first glimpses of clothes made from Thai silk, the world went wild for it, and the rest is history.
A sticky end for Jim?
The end of Thompson’s story is pretty sad though. He went hiking in Malaysia to take a break from the big city, but disappeared completely overnight, never to be seen again. Multiple searches were launched, but no trace of him was ever found. His legacy lives on the thriving modern silk industry though, and the eccentric Jim Thompson House museum is one of the most unusual places to visit in Bangkok.
Our How-to Guide On How To Make Thai Silk
The journey from raw material to beautiful silk product isn’t a straightforward one, but here’s how you can make it happen! Firstly, get a silkworm. Easy, right? Well there are actually tons all over Thailand so this is actually a pretty easy step! A silkworm is a type of caterpillar which feeds on the leaves of mulberry trees, so you’ll need to find a mulberry tree too.
Next, let the caterpillars grow fat on the leaves. Their rotund behinds are actually full of raw liquid silk so don’t be worried about putting them on a diet! Eventually, the silk is ready to be spun as a filament and hey presto, you have yourself some Thai silk. If you were taking the traditional route then you’d die your silk with natural colors found in tree bark, leaves and routes, which gives a lovely subtle but not long-lasting hue. If you want the visual impact of the bright colors you see in the markets then you’d use synthetic dyes instead. The results are spectacular!
Now you want to buy some Thai silk, right?!
On to the all-important question- where can you get Thai silk? Well the first place you might think to look is in the many and varied amazing Thai markets, but buyer beware. Anything too cheap won’t be pure silk, and instead might be mixed with all sorts of acrylic and handmade fibers.
If you want to make sure you’re getting the best of the best then we recommend going to a dedicated silk retailer to make sure you’re getting the best quality. The Jim Thompson House museum, shops like Queen Thai Silk in Sukhumvit or Exotic Thai in the Siam Paragon shopping mall are all great places to start. Charge up the credit card and get shopping!