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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.