Pak Thong Chai, near to Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat), Thailand, has long been a centre for the manufacture of Thai silk. The family businesses that have long used traditional dyeing and weaving methods, having thrived alongside the local Jim Thompson factory, are now suffering from inflated yarn prices that make price competitiveness difficult. Those who have remained in business have adopted a mix of traditional and modern methods to improve cost effficiency.
Ban Han, close to Pak Thong Chai, is one of the bigger silk villages in the area. I recently had the opportunity to arrange for some friends from overseas to be shown around examples of the silk making process there and took to pics.
Here is an example of a traditional loom:
This one is still in use in a family run factory that mainly now uses powered machines.
Here, on the same premises, is a modern weaving machine which does the job quicker but, in my view, doesn't produce the character of hand woven fabric. A Health and Safety nightmare!
The traditional hand winding tools that transfer dyed yarn to spools of various sizes are still in use but, in this factory and others, are gradually being replaced by powered machine like this one:
However, the modern processes still rely on some of the old methods. Silk yarn is dyed in vats of hot water. The vats are heated over a wood fire. This example is showing clear signs of a hard life but is still in daily use:
The Pak Thong Chai silk businesses are having to adapt in order to survive and some a doing well whilst other have closed their doors. Their problems arise not from fair competition but because yarn is being exported at more than twice the previous price to a nearby country and no attempt seems to have been made to protect this important Thai industry. How sad.