A Fabric Safari to Chom Tong in Northern Thailand

Northern Thailand
Chom Thong lies 60 kilometers south of Chiang Mai and is an easy day trip. Just get on HWY 108 and start heading south.

Chom Tong fabric (pronounced jom tong) is legendary throughout Northern Thailand. Most fabric shops in Northern Thailand that specialize in Thai handwoven fabrics will carry a selection of Chom Tong fabrics. Even in the small town of Pasang in Lamphun Province where I live, the fabric shops stock this unique cotton fabric.

The town of Chom Tong lies about 60 kilometers south of the City of Chiang Mai, barely within the southern edge of Chiang Mai Province.

Chom Thong Fabric
Chom Thong weavers at work.

It’s a dusty, old town that’s well off the beaten tourist trail. You won’t see many farangs here. The ones that do pass through are usually going to Doi Inthanon, the highest peak in Thailand, which is close by. I come here for their fabrics.

Chom Tong Fabric

Chom Thong Fabric
Chom Thong Fabric is known for its pronounced stripes.

Chom Tong fabrics can be brilliant colors or they can be delicate shades of pastels. The patterns can be wild stripes, blocks of color swatches, or a simple solid color. If you’re looking for a common color or design theme with Chom Tong you will be hard pressed to find one. And yet, this fabric is one of the most easily recognizable in Northern Thailand.

Let’s start with some common features of Chom Tong. It’s always a medium to heavy grade cotton fabric. It’s always handwoven. The texture is always course with a fairly loose weave.

Chom Thong Fabric
The above photo is a great example of how mudmee accent patterns are used in Chom Thong weaving. This tunic is also a great example of Northern Thai fashion.
A weaver stands in front of a rack of mudmee yarns ready for the looms.
Chom Thong Warp Threads
The stripe pattern for Chom Tong fabrics is always carried by the warp threads.

Chom Tong fabrics often (not always!) accent their patterns with mudmee weaving. It’s the only cotton fabric from Northern Thailand that integrates mudmee weaving with standard warp/weft weaving that I know of. (I wrote a blog entry about mudmee weaving that you can read here.) Simple mudmee motifs are integrated into the pattern and give the fabric it’s unique characteristics.

Chom Tong Fabric and Thai Pillows

Chom Thong Folding Pillows
Chom Tong is the perfect fabric for Thai folding pillows.

When I first saw this fabric in a Chiang Mai fabric shop, it didn’t take me long to envision Thai triangle and folding pillows made from this fabric. The range of unusual colors along with its sturdy weave made this fabric an obvious choice for Thai pillows.

I bought several bolts and brought it to my pillow makers in far-away Esaan. They had never worked with this northern fabric before and at first thought that using it for pillow making was just another silly farang idea. After all, as any Thai will tell you, handwoven fabrics are cultural and you don’t try new ideas with accepted tradition.

Chom Thong Triangle Pillow
Chom Thong fabric triangle pillow.

After some cajoling, I got our pillow makers to cut and sew some pillow shells from the Chom Tong. The fabric held its seams very well and to the relief of the pillow makers, was an easy fabric to work with.

It took the pillow makers about a month to use all the Chom Tong fabric I had initially brought them. The pillows were stuffed, sewed up, finished off and sent to me in Chiang Mai. The results were far superior than my initial vision. The pillow makers loved the result. Chom Tong fabric indeed made for great Thai pillows.

Chom Tong Fabric and Thai Apparel

Chom Thong Fashion
Chom Thong Fashion. Upper Left: Halter Top; Upper Right: Fisherman Pants; Lower Left: Fisherman Pants and matching bralette; Lower Right: Thai Baggy Pants with matching halter.

Before I started using Chom Tong fabric for Thai pillows, I made fisherman pants, pantaloons, sarongs and other Thai apparel from this fabric. Apparel making is the intended use of this fabric.

Our customers (all women) loved the heavier weighted fabric and the unusual colors and designs. Chom Tong apparel sold very well and at a top price.

Chom Thong Fabric Store
A Chom Thong fabric store in Chom Tong.

I had our Chom Tong apparel made in Pasang, and so unlike the Esaan pillow makers, the Pasang seamstresses were well aware of this fabric and usually found it easy to cut and stitch. The only real problem I had with using this fabric is that it’s almost impossible to find two bolts that are identical. But that’s always an issue with handwoven fabrics.

Getting There

Ngong AF Chang Women Weaving Group
This weaving cooperative is a great place to see Chom Tong fabric being woven. To get there: just stay on HWY 108 through town for a mile. Travelling south, it’s on the right hand side of the road.

The town of Chom Tong is easy to reach from Chiang Mai. Just drive south on Highway 108 for about 1 1/2 hours and your there. In town you can ask around for fabric stores that are scattered around the small town.

To see weaving in action, I would recommend the Ngong AF Chang Women Weaving Group. To find this weaving cooperative, stay on HWY 108 right through town. About a mile after leaving town and heading south, you’ll see the cooperative on the right hand side of the road. You can always ask for directions in town.


  1. Hey Jeff, first thank you for your interesting content. Although we found many of the places somehow on our own, there are so much interesting things I did not know. So as we were just there a couple of days the ago the “Ngan A(aP)F Chang Women Weaving Group” is not operating any longer and in my opinion they have closed for a longer time already. We found another “handicrafts identity village ” in that area but from what I remember it was a lot easier to get a “look behind the scenes” at the Ngan Aap Chang group. Pasang is still there though and always worth a visit. Cheers, Daniel

    • Thanks for the update Daniel. Sorry to hear that the weaving group is closed. It was a great place with lots of looms in operation. Chom Tong fabric will always live on I hope. I’ll have to go back to Chom Tong and see what going on.


  2. Hi Jeff, this is very helpful, thank you for this post. I am here in Chiang Mai for just a few days and would like to buy some heavy woven fabric to make some chair covers with. Is there anywhere in particular in Chom Thong (or elsewhere) that you can recommend for a good selection of colours/patterns? I think I will hire a car and go for a forage! Thank you, Elanor

    • Hi Elanor. Thanks for writing. Here’s some suggestions for a “fabric safari” for cotton textiles nearby. 1. The easiest is the Chiang Mai fabric district (see my blog post for directions and info). You can find Chom Thong fabrics there and lots of other traditional fabrics. 2. The Ban Daun Luang Cotton Textile Center in Pasang (about 35 kilometers from Chiang Mai. You’ll find lots of cotton fabrics there. See my post “Shop for Cotton Fabrics Near Chiang Mai” for directions and info. 3. In Chom Thong, yes, nose around town and find local fabric shops. But definitely go to Ngan AF Chang Women Weaving Group on HWY 108 just outside of town. In my blog post about Chom Thong I have a photo of the signage for the cooperative. Copy that and show it to anyone in Chom Thong and they’ll help you find it. Best of luck. Let me know how your fabric safari turns out.

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