Cotton Weaving in Thailand

All the fabrics in our products are handwoven cotton fabrics made by local artisans in Thailand. Weaving in Thailand is a craft that has been passed down from generations to generation.

In the past, handwoven cotton was a common product that people made and bought for the making of clothes. Tailors would then make all kinds different clothes for various occasions. Today the situation in Thailand has changed and is very much like in most countries in the worldThai people buy both branded and non-branded clothing from various storefronts, some online and some offline channels. Most of the clothes bought and worn in Thailand come from countries like India, China and Vietnam and they are increasingly made from polyester yarn. There is not much space left in the market for handwoven fabrics.

There are however still small communities left that maintain this old handicraft. Most of them are in the northeastern region of Thailand. And what is seen most often is that it is the elderly women who are skillfully and happily weaving on the terrace of her house.

Most of the weavers are primarily farmers. Weaving is an additional occupation that generates income while waiting for the harvest from the fields which provides for their main income.

cotton growing thailand cotton plants growing in the community

Some of the cotton used for weaving is grown locally in the vicinity of the communities. This cotton will then have to go through many steps before it can be woven. The cotton flowers are picked by hand, the seeds are removed and the cotton needs to be carded and spun until the yarn gets the desired thickness and strength. The spinning technique is very important part of the process as it will determine the thickness and evenness of the yarn. Different tightness and looseness result in unique characteristics of each piece of fabric. Some fabrics are smooth and fine. Some are more rough and thicker, with each fabric suitable for different purposes. 

 cotton yarn made by hand spinning

There are two methods of spinning the cotton thread, namely hand spinning and machine spinning. The characteristics of the hand spun cotton thread is that the yarn will have an uneven thickness. Expert craftsman can make yarn of quite even thickness but it is still not the same as factory spun cotton. This unevenness of the threads will add to the uniqueness to the texture of the fabric. Hand spinning cotton is work that requires both time and expertise. As a result, nowadays there are fewer and fewer craftsmen left to work here.

factory spun cotton with a uniform thickness

Our shop has both fabrics made from hand spun cotton yarn and fabrics made from cotton that has been spun at a factory. We also have fabric that uses a combination of hand spun cotton yarn and factory spun yarn. This give you a choice for the texture feel of the fabric.

A common combination we sell is factory spun yarn for the warp threads (the long threads) and hand spun cotton for the weft threads (the horizontal threads as it were). This is easier to weave then hand spun cotton for both directions as the warp threads will be even and can be thinner and stronger as a result. However, we also carry some fabrics that uses hand spun cotton in both directions, for customers who like a texture of cotton that is thick, soft and heavy. 

 hand spun cotton thread is uneven in thickness
There are many ways to design fabric patterns. And one of the advantages of hand-weaving is to weave different patterns in small amounts, starting from just 10 meters. This compared to factory woven fabrics that must be ordered in large quantities such as hundreds of meters per order.

hand loomthe kind of loom commonly used in Thailand

Patterns can be created by using different colored threads for the warp and the weft. As such stripes and checkers can be made. Another way to create patterns is the use of different weaving techniques which us skipping every other thread or more. And finally the threads themselves can be dyed in a pattern and then woven to a tight plan, this is called ikat or mudmee in Thai language.

Handwoven cotton is thick and elegant in its own right. Both in terms of texture and uniqueness of each piece. With time the popularity of hand-woven cotton handicrafts has greatly diminished but Garden of Siam aims to promote and support Thai handwoven cotton and hopes for it to play a role again as a viable way to generate income in the countryside. We also support the building of a strong communities which are an important basis for the sustainable development of the country.