A Journey into Thai Culture

My blog is a journey into both Thailand and Thai culture. It’s a cultural travel guide of sorts with an emphasis on fabrics and Thai pillows.

I have been living in, travelling to, and coming and going from Thailand for two decades. I’ve worked alongside Thais; attended their weddings and funerals; eat Thai food more often than farang; and attend Buddhist ceremonies. My son is Thai.  My family is Thai. I was married in a Thai wat with nine monks chanting. I could go on and on…. You get the picture.

For a more expanded version of my “Thai chops” please read: My Thai Life. It’s the beginning chapter of my blog.

This Blog

I tend to post in spurts. Just when you think my blog has finally gone silent for good, I’ll suddenly post a frenzy of essays.

My son tells me to be a successful blogger I need to post regularly-weekly, monthly or everyday.  (Everyday! Who has something interesting to say everyday?) I patiently explain to him that I have posts that took me weeks just to research, another week to write, and another week after that to get the photos/graphics ready.

I also update this blog frequently especially my most popular posts about Thai fabrics. I’m always getting new info and finding more photos that I’ll add. So don’t be fooled by the original posting date-I usually update these posts every 6 months.

Needless to say my blog, while it may appear random, is not a collection of random thoughts.

The Thai Fabric Chronicles

Fabric Shopping in Chiang Mai
My wife fabric shopping in Chiang Mai.

Much of my blog is about Thai fabrics-Thai handwoven fabrics to be specific. Traditional fabrics are a cultural treasure of Thailand.

I consider myself an expert on handwoven Thai fabrics, especially Thai silk. I’ve written extensively about both Thai silk production and Thai silk fabrics.

My fabric expertise stems from the export business my wife and I started many years ago. Along the way, I’ve purchased tens of thousands of dollars worth of Thai silk from village weavers and so gained an expertise and love for this legendary fabric and the people who produce it.

Thai Pillows

My love for Thai fabrics is only eclipsed by my love for Thai pillows. Over the years, I exported to the U.S. over 30 ocean freight containers of Thai pillows. That’s a lot of pillows! The pillow makers of Esaan are close family friends and will remain so forever.

Thai pillows, their history, how they’re made, and their quality is my deepest passion.

A Very Little More About Myself

Born in northern Ohio on the banks of Lake Erie in the winter.  A snowy, cold start to life. Lived here and there in the U.S., mostly in L.A. Went to the University of Arizona, which turned out to be great preparation for the heat of Thailand. I also went to law school-sorry!

The Siamese Puzzle Box

Whether by choice or fate, I’ve been dragged across a cultural chasm from White culture to Thai culture. It doesn’t happen overnight, but is the result of over two decades of intimate contact with all things Thai.





  1. Ji Jeff,

    Thank you so so so much for your amazing blog! There is so much knowledge and expertise that we, the fabrics lover, can use.

    I am a lacemaker, mainly expertise is the bobbin lace technique, and currently traveling through Thailand, trying to find the silk threads for my lace designs. Is there any chance you could advise me where I should go to try to find the silk threads?

    Many thanks in advance. And once again, thank you for your great blog. Such s great job!

  2. Hi! So I’m half Thai and half American, I was raised in the US, and did not have much exposure to Thai culture, even though both my parents were involved in my upbringing. For the past few years I have been trying to find ways to reconnect with the culture and one of my areas of interest is Thai textiles. Is there any literature you would recommend in learning more about the creation process, the symbolism of the designs and patterns, and appropriate uses of the fabric? Accessibility to good resources is difficult (most searches here don’t yield much information, it’s been difficult to find stuff in English) I’d love to discuss further, thank you!!

    • Hi Sierra,

      Here’s a few books on Thai textiles that I recommend:

      1. Thai Textiles by Susan Conway (The British Museum Press, 1992) Susan Conway is considered the leading expert on Thai textiles.

      2. Silken Threads Lacquer Thrones by Susan Conway (Art Media Resources, 2002)

      3. In Royal Fashion: The Style of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand by Melissa Leventon and Dale Carolyn Gluckman. (2nd Edition 2014)

      4. Fit For A Queen: Her Majesty Queen Sirikit’s Creations By Balmain by Melissa Leventon. River Books Press (November 21, 2016)

      5. Through the Thread of Time: S.E. Asian Textiles by Jane Puranananda (The James Thompson Foundation Symposium Papers, 2004)

      Best of luck on your journey.

  3. I sent a message but it seems to have disappeared . I would like to know if you can identify where this fabric might be from. I dont know as I bought it from a woman off Marketplace, she had it for about 20 years but couldnt remember where she got it from.

    Any help would be very much appreciated.

    • Thanks for writing Kim. This fabric could’ve been woven in either Thailand or Laos. The motifs are commonly used in Thailand and the weaving style is referred to as “yok dok”, or a brocaded weave. What’s interesting is the rough texture of the weave. The weaver chose very thick yarns which makes me believe it’s cotton or a silk/cotton fabric. The motifs of the fabric can be found in northeastern Thailand (Esaan), the Sukothai region, or northern Thailand. You can also find this style of weaving in and around Luang Prabang in Laos.

      I noticed its earthy colors which may indicate its made with natural dyes. Rub a corner of the fabric on a white piece of paper. If some of the color rubs off on the paper then natural dyes were used. That would make this bolt a rare find.

      Over the last 50 years, village weavers have increasingly shared their weaving techniques with other villages. This has made it harder and harder to identify a fabric solely by its motifs. But your fabric is very unique because of that “rough” weave. If it turns out to be made of natural dyes then your fabric is no doubt one of a kind.

      Thanks for sharing.

  4. Greetings! I am trying to find the price of 2 pieces of Thai silk my mother bought from Jim Thompson at their showroom in either 1987 or 1992. I am handling my mother’s estate right now on Whidbey Island north of Seattle. She has 2 pieces of silk, which I am going to try and send photos of. The first one is the light green color and approx 10.28 yards. The second is the black color and 7.4 yards. Looking for a ballpark number to work with. I’ve tried Jim Thompson in Bangkok but no luck so far. Hoping you can help. Thank you. Joe Lewis. Sent the first photo and will follow up with 2nd.

    • Hi Joe,
      Thanks for contacting me and sending photos. The silk is a plain weave, probably a “shot” fabric. (Shot weave is when the weaver uses a different color thread for the warp and weft which causes that famous shimmering effect.) You didn’t mention the width which can tell me a lot about the fabric. I would also mention that these fabrics were probably woven at Pak Thong Chai near Korat at Jim Thompson’s silk weaving center.

      Today, you can find solid color, plain weave Thai silk for between $15-$30 a meter if you travel to the rural silk weaving villages in Esaan. Plain weave is the simplest of weaves and so is inexpensive. I really don’t know what you might pay in Bangkok. I’m not sure if the fact that it’s “Jim Thompson Brand” will add much value to the bolts. But knowing they’re Jim Thompson assures you that the weave and quality of silk threads are top notch. Hope this helps you. Best of luck.


  5. Hi Jeff

    What a fantastic and informative blog.

    I am conducting a research project on the use of natural products and Thai crafts in Thailand’s hotel industry as a means to preserve and showcase traditional crafts and cultural heritage and generate income for Thai communities and craftspeople.

    Would be interested to know, in all your travels around Thailand, have you come across any weaving communities that sell their products to hotels, for example for making uniforms for front-desk staff, or fabrics for hotel linen, cushion covers and interior design?

    Thanks in advance

    • Hi Claudia,

      Thanks for writing. I don’t know of any weaving communities that market their fabric to hotels. I’ve been in many Thai hotels that use some handwoven fabrics as accents. Example: I stayed at a hotel in Buriram that had handwoven bed-runners. The problem a business would have in relying on the Thai handwoven fabric industry is that it’s unreliable. The weavers generally work at home and finish their work on their time and schedule. A high quality 4-meter bolt of brocaded Thai silk can take 2 months to weave.

      Thai Airways have formal Thai silk uniforms for their on-board staff. I don’t know if its handwoven or where they source the silk. Of course there are many Thai uniform makers but I doubt they use handwovens. My experience is that generally when a weaver completes a bolt, she then gives it to a village silk shop to sell on consignment.

      Best of luck on your research project.

    • Hi Jeff,
      Thanks so much for your very informative blog. My wife and I were wondering if you would have the names or and information on tailors/seamstresses that could make hand woven silk products and are based in Bangkok – if they have a retail store that would be great because our needs are for small quantities (scarfs etc). Thanks again Mike from Canada

      • Sa-wad-dee Mike,

        Thanks for writing. First: Look over my two blog posts of silk shops on Instagram where I put together two compendiums of silk shops in Thailand. Some are located in Bangkok. And also see “Buying Thai Silk in Bangkok” where I recommend a few places. The Instagram silk shops are convenient because you can communicate with them via IG or call them. Many will speak English.

        For something like scarves, those are made on the loom. In my opinion the finest scarves are made with Praewa silk. (Yes, I’ve blogged about that also.) Many silk shops at Old Siam Plaza (2nd Floor) in Bangkok will have a nice selection.

        One caveat is Covid. It’s disrupted everything so I can no longer be sure of anything. I haven’t been to Old Siam Plaza since before the pandemic so I have no idea about its current situation.

        Best of luck,

  6. Hello there, I am in Australia and looking for hand woven hemp fabric roll. I was in Chiang Mai last year and have a sample. I was wondering if you could put me in contact with a supplier to buy bulk wholesale?
    Happy to send you a picture, if I had your email address.

    • Hello Beatrice,

      Thanks for writing. I have bought lots of hemp fabric in Thailand which I would use to make fisherman pants. I have never seen handwoven hemp fabric in Thailand and I doubt you’ll find it, especially in wholesale quantities. Also, I’m not aware of any hemp yarns or thread being manufactured in Thailand. (If I’m wrong, please write back!)

      The problem I had with buying hemp textiles in Thailand is that you can’t be sure if it’s authentic or if it’s a blended fabric (example: 70% hemp/30% cotton). Unlike silk, hemp can be very difficult to distinguish from other fabrics. You have to know and trust your seller.

      The hemp fabrics for sale in Thailand are probably woven in China or to a lesser extent India. If a Thai textile manufacturer does produce hemp fabric, they will have sourced their hemp yarns from China. China is the leading producer of organic hemp fabrics and yarns. I knew a fabric store in Thailand that would import hemp yarns from China and then contract with a Thai textile company to produce hemp fabric. I reviewed your website (hempgallery.com.au) and you source much of your hemp fabrics from China already. I have purchased bulk lots of organic bamboo fabric from China with success. Dealing directly with the textile manufacturer allows me to get exactly the type of fabric I need and I don’t have to worry about authenticity if dealing with a reputable company. So my advice is to keep sourcing your hemp from China. Best of luck.


      • Hello Jeff, thank you so much for your response. It’s the hill tribes like the Hmong who weave the hemp after hand spinning the fibres. I have bought them before in 5, 8 or 10 yards in a small 30cm rolls. I was actually at Warorot Market in December, bought hemp samples of what I wanted to import to Australia but now I can’t find the business cards to contact them back!
        Once this covid madness is over, good excuse to go back to Thailand ;-))
        Many thanks and and best regards.

      • Yes, now I know exactly what you’re asking about! This fabric is woven on a backstrap loom which is why it’s so narrow. (I thought you wanted 58 inch wide bolts of 100 yard rolls of hemp fabric.) As I’m sure you know, there’s lots of shops in the Chiang Mai fabric district (the area around Wororot Market) that sell this fabric. Another place to check is Anasorn Night Market in central Chiang Mai. Anasorn used to be the best market for Hill Tribe wares, although over the years this market has declined.

        Try contacting Chiang Mai Hill Tribe Clothing: https://www.facebook.com/chiangmaihilltribeclothing/ or on Instagram at: @chiangmaihilltribe_clothing I’m sure the owner knows good wholesale sources for this fabric. You can also try: @hmonglovers (Instagram), or @hmong.cloch.apple333999. Instagram is a great resource for Thai fabrics, and you can contact the owners via IG.

        Best of luck

  7. Hi Jeff. This is Priya Praveen from India. We have been doing business in kapok for the past twenty five years in India. I have read your blogs and got a wonderful insight on thai pillows and mats. I have some specific doubts about the triangular pillow. Can u pls share your personal mail.

  8. Jeff, I like your pages a lot. Only way to make them better would be to add a contact link or button. Some might want to “talk” with you without the whole world listening in. As with this comment of mine.

    • Hi Odelia,

      Thanks for contacting me. My Instagram feed is @thaifabricblogger; Pinterest is My Thailand Blog. You can go to my blog’s homepage and if using a tablet you’ll see my social media feeds on the right-hand column; if using a cell phone scroll to the bottom. You can click through to my feeds. Thanks.


  9. HELLO! I am headed to Chiang Mai next month and would LOVE to bring home some handwoven Thai fabrics. Do you have any vendors in the Chiang Mai fabric market that you recommend for handwoven fabrics? I am not an “expert” of fabrics and would not necessarily know the difference. THANKS in advance

    • Hello 2girlsandabikini,

      You ask a great question that I really can’t answer. The Chiang Mai fabric district is a warren of streets and alleys with countless small fabric sellers. I have my favorites but I don’t know the addresses or even the names of the alleyways or streets. My blog is filled with photos of handwoven fabrics so you can learn a lot from my photos. Also read as much as you can of my Fabric Chronicles which will teach you lots about Thai handwoven fabric.

      Handwovens are often folded up and stacked on a counter top. English is somewhat spoken in the Fabric District so ask the vendor. They know and will be happy to show you their handwovens. You should easily be able to find handwovens even with just a quick visit (an hour) to the Fabric District.

      Handwoven fabrics are usually about 30-35 inches in diameter and have a length of 2-4 meters. If the fabric is rolled into a bolt that’s 50 meters long it is not handwoven. If the width is 50+ inches, it’s almost certainly not handwoven. Handwovens almost never have a printed pattern-their patterns are woven or mudmee. (read my blog post on mudmee) Only buy fabric from dedicated fabric stores. The handwovens are sold in the smaller fabric stores. Enjoy the Fabric District-it’s “old Chiang Mai” in style. Good luck!

  10. Hi, I would like to get a couple folding pillows with the ikat fabric. Will it be possible to buy from you?

    • Hi Ancha,

      Thanks for writing. I no longer make Thai pillows commercially as I’m now officially retired. I doubt you’ll find a place that makes ikat Thai pillows first and them sells them to the general public. It’s usually a custom pillow arrangement-you buy and bring the fabric to a pillow maker and they’ll quote you a price.

  11. Hello! I read your entry on Thai fisherman pants with great interest. I’m disappointed to hear you’re no longer making/selling your pants! Is there another seller that you’d recommend that makes the J seam pants (I prefer mine above the ankle)? Thank you!

    • Hi Nancy,

      I can’t recommend any specific seller of fish pants that make them with the j seam. (That’s a traditional northern design.) Your best bet is to look at vendors in the Chiang Mai area. Best of luck.

  12. Hi, Jeff,
    I have so enjoyed going thru your blogs in the last few months. I am very passionate about Thai fabrics, to the point of having a business for over 10 years selling Thai fabrics in the United States at sewing and quilting show. I am leaving March 5 for my 32nd trip, and can’t believe I never knew about you. I have some specific silk buying question that I would like to email you about. May I email you?

    • Hi Gale. Yes! I sent you my email address to your email address listed on this query. I look forward to hearing from you.

  13. Thank you for all of the helpful information in your blog. I import 8mm silk habotai from China to the US, but due to the new tariffs, I am looking for another source. I know that you specialize in handwoven silk, but for my purposes I do not need for it to be handwoven. Can you recommend a supplier in Thailand?

    • Hi Alan. Thanks for contacting me. I’m not aware of habotai silk being woven in Thailand. China is by far the biggest producer of habotai silk (as you already know). I would look to a textile supplier in India. If you google “habotai silk in India” you’ll get lots of manufacturers/wholesalers in India. The fabric originated in Japan, but I’m not sure if there are any Japanese manufacturers that still produce it. India is your best bet. India has always had a very accomplished silk industry. Best of luck.

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