Thai silk is an ancient home induistry. It was for a long time an occupation of people in the Northeast of Thailand, where cloth weaving is a traditional folk craft. To follow the footsteps of their ancestors, northeastern women used to rear their own silkworms, spun and dyed the yarn using the primitive methods for their family needs and sometimes for sale in the markets.
Unfortunately, from the latter part of the 19th century onwards, the Thai silk industry went on the decline due to the influx of Chinese and Japanese cheaper, factory-produced fabrics into the Thai markets. During the reign of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), there was an attempt to improve silk production, but it achieved limited success. It was only after the World War II that Thai silk found its way into the world market when an American named Jim Thompson revived the industry and made the silk known to the outside world.
Usually with the arrival of cheaper, modern materials and more labour0intensive production techniques, folk arts and handicrafts will have difficulty in surviving modern challenges. To maintain these talents and supplement the income of rural people, the Foundation for the Promotion of Supplementary Occupations and Related Techniques (Support) has been set up under the initaiation of Her Majesty the Queen. A key function of Support is to open new markets for the finished products.
One of these products is the northeast’s beautiful “Mudmee” silk which is widely popular as it is durable and can be worn for many year if given proper care. Thai silk is today one of the best known handicrafis sold all over the world. It is mostly exported in plain lengths, plaids brocades, stripes, prints and checks worldwide. The Queen herself helped popularise Thai silk by wearing it and encouraging villagers to expand the weaving of mudmee and other types of clothes. In addition, a silk fashion show is frequently held to display its attractiveness and beautiful designs. From its humble origins, Thai silk has now become an important national product.