A review of Antique Thai Textiles, and Chinese Treasures in Chiang Mai.

Keith and I don't do "tourist" very well.

We did yesterday on a ride down the Ping river in Chiang Mai, but I admit that I gritted my teeth and sighed a lot at the patter of the guide.

Granted he is Thai and is talking in another language… but I have many Thai friends and the banter is not normal Thai speak….

We haven't been to Chiang Mai for about 20 years and my main reason for coming was to look at Textiles.

We found a market where they sell new and Antique Thai embroideries and products. In fact its not far from our hotel.

We wandered down back roads and came across a tented area of about an acre, these skirts were hanging on a fence of a rather polluted creek to dry after being dyed. I thought they looked wonderful.

As we walked into the compound my heart skipped a beat at the colors and textures of all that I saw. These pieces were hanging under a big blue plastic awning.


This bag was full of old printed and embroidered skirts.

We handle our quilts and fabric with care, but aah, these are just shoved into one of those old woven plastic bags…. but think about it. These are organic pieces… no they can be handled with what we would consider disrespect, but they will wash and bounce back like new no matter how old or worn they are.

The women spin cotton into thread with a hand spindle, and then weave it on a foot-treadle loom. The cloth is then hand dyed with indigo. The women wear broad leggings, a short black skirt with a white beaded sporran, a loose fitting black jacket with heavily embroidered cuffs and lapels. The Akha women are known for their embroidery skills.

The embroidery consists of bold geometric designs often realized in bright, contrasting colors. Different patterns and techniques of production are associated with geographical regions and cultural subdivisions within the global Hmong community. For example, White Hmong are typically associated with reverse appliqué while Green Mong are more associated with batik. Since the mass exodus of Hmong refugees from Laos following the end of the Secret War, major stylistic changes occurred, strongly influenced by the tastes of the Western marketplace.

The batik motif is the basis for red cotton appliqué and colorful embroidery. If the wearer desires a long skirt, two pieces of hemp are stitched together. When the embellishment of the skirt length is finished it is gathered up, concertina style creating a folded tubular garment. A skirt can take up to 5 or 6 months to make, around 40 years ago a woman could sell a skirt for 3 or 4 silver coins.

Some of these pieces are combinations of old and new embroideries and have been re-worked… I don't mind that… in fact I think its really creative.

I walked the entire venue… stopping occasionally to touch the pieces… then it was time to select.


This is the first piece I purchased. It's 15 feet long by 10" deep and cross stitched and appliqued onto hand woven and indigo dyed hemp. It would have been part of a skirt. I think I will use it as the border for a quilt.


This piece is Antique and Chinese in origin and is still in is original form with the paper still on the back. Its a gift for a friend for her birthday.

I thought she might like to see how its made.

I bought nine of these antique pieces. I will leave them as they are in all their beauty. I will have then framed individually in thin black frames and hang them as a nine patch quilt on the wall.

This is a close up of the very tiny cross stitch on the panel above. I wonder who made it.

The embroidery below is on a jacket worn by some of the Hill Tribe people. I bought an old Jacket… its quite small and will also hang on the wall in my studio. Its a testament to the skills of the makers. I love it.

This is an interesting piece its on orange velvet…. of course it will find its way into my stash.

Some of the pieces are heavily beaded… I need to do more research on the origins.

Some are old and faded but that adds to the beauty for me.

I now realize that I need to go back to the market to buy some indigo dyed fabric for my quilt and some hand woven hemp.

The strips are about 12" wide, so its going to be a challenge to complete something with them.

We found a wonderful place for lunch and sat out in the garden and ate my favorite food here in Thailand… sticky rice and mango.

Today, I'm sourcing Thai silk, the silk growers and weavers.



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