Thailand wears blue—but is it true?

I recently fled our soul-crushing Minnesota winter for Thailand, Cambodia and a few days in Tokyo. Allow me to report that indigo has swept the backpackers’ haven of Bangkok’s Khao San Road and at least one sunny island: Koh Kood.

This ersatz “indigo” is about as authentic as that $20 Rolex watch or that $15 Gucci purse. As lovely as the couple above is, the blinding blue of their T-shirts failed to win me over; neither did the display of cheap apparel at our resort. It was all too much!

Enter Indigo House, a Bangkok repository that lives up to its name. Located in the Siam Paragon, a swish Western-style mall, Indigo House has bolts of hand-spun silk ikat on display. I was immediately paralyzed by so many choices.

I learned about Indigo House from Sarah Shaw’s informative blog, Wanderlust and Lipstick. The store combines readymade goods with material by the meter. Ikat is its specialty: Thai indigo and shiny Thai silk in a cacophony of colors. Ikat (EE-caht) describes a complicated technique in which the fiber is dyed before it is woven. The result includes the mind-blowing patterns shown above and below.

I really couldn’t see for all the color, so I put my money on another painstaking technique: sashiko stitchwork embroidery. This issue of Seamwork does a nice job explaining sashiko. I bought two shirts stitched in sashiko by Thai women—I’m sure it is done by women—who will never realize how much I admire and celebrate their talents.

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Coming up in mndigo’s next posts: a trip to Phnom Penh’s Silk Island, where the process of raising butterfly cocoons to spinning silk to weaving is on view. Also, signs of spring—and sashiko (also called boro) and kimono—in Tokyo.

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