Learning to tie dye in Thailand

Having a go at tie dye
My first attempt at tie dye – can you see the concentration on my face?!

Over the years I’ve bought many tie-dyed sarongs in Thailand – one of my must-have beach essentials – so I thought it about time I learnt the skill and technique involved in this colourful craft. Whether it’s a local cookery lesson, an art class or a craft workshop,  I always like to ‘do’ on my travels and not just ‘see’. I often find cultural activities help me connect with the place or community I’m visiting and I end up with a more enriched experience.

I did a basic tie dye course at Cotton Farm, located at the Old Chiang Mai Cultural Centre near the Airport Plaza. A 1.5hr lesson cost 800 baht and you get to create a coloured handkerchief and scarf, which are yours to keep.

Hanging to dry

During the workshop we were given a brief overview of Asian tie-dye and shown the techniques you can use to achieve different patterns. With nothing more than some rubber bands, some plastic string and a rather large pole, we were then ready to be let loose!

Handkerchief ready to go in the dye

Handkerchief in the making

After soaking my fabric in the dye I waited in anticipation, excited at the thought of what I would see when I released all the knots and ties. It brought back memories of when I learnt to develop film in a dark room and would watch as my photographic paper slowly came to life with an image – you never quite knew how it would turn out.

Blue dye

Pink dye

The next step was to wash the fabric – first in detergent, then in water and lastly vinegar – and then wait for our masterpieces to dry, before packaging them in a cute little bag to take home.

tie dye scarves

Despite being a grown woman I still know that ‘look what I did at school today’ feeling when it hits me. How do I know..? Well, as you might have expected, the first thing I did was send photos  to my mum!

The world always seems brighter quote

With its rich heritage of crafts and art, Chiang Mai in northern Thailand is the perfect place to try your hand at skills such as weaving, pottery and leather work – you’ll have a tough time choosing from the many workshops on offer.

Made in Chiang Mai

Old Chiang Mai Cultural Centre

Visit www.handmade-chiangmai.com for more information about Chiang Mai’s craft industry and workshops.

Tip: Even if someone doesn’t actually  run a workshop but you’re interested in a product they make, don’t be afraid to ask them about their craft and see if they would show you. The owners of Farm Story House, a lovely little spot for  lunch in Chiang Mai, were only too happy to invite a group of us to make our own soap when we showed an interest in their products.

Farm Story House

Farm Story House chalkboard



3 Comments Add yours

  1. Suzanne Sweetman says:

    I am interested in learning mudmee tie-dye techniques in depth from professional artists. I just wonder if there are any studios of this kind in Chang Mai or is it necessary to go to Bangkok?


    1. I’m afraid I don’t know, Suzanne. It might be worth contacting the Chiang Mai Cultural Centre and asking them (there’s a link to the website in my post). There are lots of artisans in Chiang Mai so hopefully you will find something suitable – good luck!


  2. Suzanne Sweetman says:

    Thankyou! I will follow up!


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