You will find plenty craft supplies for all your fiber arts at Warowat wholesale market. There are several fabric stores selling factory made textiles for everyday sewing. There is also handwoven and hand dyed fabric available directly from the Hill Tribe sellers in Warorot. Don’t worry, there are also stores with all the sewing, embroidery, knitting, crochet and beading supplies you need.
The main area of the wholesale market has about a half dozen fabric stores of varying quality. Find one that has the quality you will be satisfied with and make it a regular stop. It can be exhausting to search all the stores. Be careful to test the hand of the fabric before you buy. Bolts are generally not marked and the sales people usually don’t speak English. The unique thing about sewing in Thailand is that you can get the indigo hand dyed and printed fabric, which is unavailable anywhere else. Go to the tribal clothing booths on the outer edge of the market. There you will see all kinds of traditional clothing and bags, but keep your eye out and you will see that some of them have whole cloth. It is narrow, so you need more. It is also in short lengths of about two meters. Find a fabric you like and make sure there are several bundles to make enough for a whole garment. Unroll it and check for any tears or major flaws. Two rolls will be about 4 meters of fabric and it will come to about $20 US for a roll. So, you can make an original garment for a very small price.
There are also two big notions stores for general sewing supplies. One is geared towards tailors and other sewing professionals. This is where you go for specialized tools for pattern making and draping. Across the street is another tiny notions store that is packed to the gills with all sorts of notions. This is where you will find decorative trims, a large selection of buttons, and all the hand sewing needles, bodkins, seam rippers, and other tools you may need for sewing. (insert map here)
If you don’t sew or don’t have room for a sewing machine, you can always have something made at a neighborhood sewing shop. There are shops that will custom sew a garment for you in Warowat, but they will charge you about 1500 baht or about $45 US. You will get a better price at a neighborhood shop and the ladies are usually quite good at copying a garment you have or making a new one from a good sketch or photo.
There are several sewing machine shops in Chiang Mai. I recommend going to name brand dealers. The big used sewing machine shops on the way to the wholesale market (Warorot) do not give any kind of warranty or guarantee on anything they sell. When buying used you really need at least a 90 day guarantee and this is apparently not done in Chiang Mai.
However, sewing machines, though tiny, are inexpensive. So, go to a shop that sells new; you will get good service and usually some free lessons. Consider the kind of sewing you will be doing, not just the cost. If you are just learning, a small inexpensive machine will be fine. Stay with light weight fabric and small projects for these machines. If you are a quilter or a tailor, you will need a larger machine with more power. If you don’t speak Thai, take a translator with you. Choosing the right sewing machine is complicated. You want to be sure you get all the features you need. The sales people will be trying to sell up with the machines that do a hundred different stitches. Don’t buy more than you need. As your skill grows, you are more likely to want a different type of machine, rather than a more complicated one.
I turned to knitting and crochet when I first started traveling in Asia and it’s been good to have craft supplies that fit easily in a suit case, and small projects that can actually fit into a handbag. If your passion is knitting and crochet, you are probably wondering if supplies are available in this warm climate. You can buy the hooks and needles, but almost all of the yarn is acrylic. Pin Shop has good wool from Spain, but it is so hot here you will never be able to wear it. The one thing they do have is hemp thread. If you crochet, you can make some very nice things with it, although it is not as soft as cotton. However, it holds its shape much better than cotton. I wouldn’t recommend it for knitting because it has no stretch at all.
Embroidery is another fiber art that is easy to carry and has many uses. You will find that from decorating furniture and clothing, to large pieces for framing and hanging on the wall; there’s an embroidery project that will fit in your bag. It’s very popular in Thailand and thread in all colors is readily available in both cotton and silk. They also have kits with printed patterns, If you prefer counted cross stitch or like to design your own embroidery, they have those supplies, as well.
For more great travel stories see: http://www.budgettravelerssandbox.com/category/travel-photo-thursday-2/