TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

TAMMACHAT Natural Textiles, Part 2: The Artisans

“I feel in harmony with this work.”
Loek Khonsudee, Member, Panmai Group, Northeast Thailand

By Ellen Agger and Alleson Kase
All Photos © Ellen Agger 2009

TAMMACHAT Natural Textiles works with rural communities in Thailand and Laos where women have long been recognized as valuable and equal members of their families and communities. These artisans:

• transform barks, berries, leaves, seeds and silk cocoons into gorgeous weavings
• create traditional and contemporary designs using traditional floor looms
• develop and use natural dyeing techniques that support their health and the environment

TAMMACHAT Natural Textiles is building trading relationships – based on fair trade principles – with a growing number of weaving groups and non-governmental organizations in Thailand and Laos that work with village groups. We want to introduce you to a few of these groups.

Panmai Group in Thailand works with silk production
and organic weaving production.

Panmai Group has 250 members living in 3 provinces in Northeast Thailand in both Khmer and Laotian villages, who draw on these traditions in their designs. These women are very skilled in sericulture (the entire cycle of silk production) and are proud to weave only organic, village-reeled and naturally dyed silk yarns. They are expert and widely respected for their dyeing skills using natural materials, protecting both their own health and that of their environment.

Prae Pan Group in Northeast Thailand dye cotton naturally
and weave silk.

Prae Pan Group has 200 members in 7 villages in Khon Kaen province in Northeast Thailand. They are highly skilled at supplementary weft weaving and the natural dyeing of cotton, although they weave silk as well. Prae Pan, like Panmai, has been operating for 20 years and is proud to be entirely villager-run and self-sufficient.

During a recent visit, women from both groups told us that this work allows them to stay in their villages where they can live with their families, grow rice and practice their foremothers’ art – while preserving it for their heirs.

Pattanarak Foundation works with
disadvantaged and stateless peoples along
the Thai border.

Pattanarak Foundation works to balance development and conservation among disadvantaged communities and stateless peoples along Thailand’s borders. Their products are handmade with an indigenous species of cotton organically grown along the Thai-Lao border on the banks of the Mekong River. After spinning, dyeing and weaving, some products are sewn by projects in the west of Thailand along the Burmese border. This helps forge links and exchange ideas between communities that are experiencing similar challenges. One village group working with Pattanarak specializes in indigo dyeing, always popular for its lively colour – “nature’s true blue.”

Saoban provides technical assistance and training for
low income textile entrepreneurs in Laos.

Saoban is a Vientiane-based marketing outlet for over a dozen village groups that work with the Participatory Development Training Center (PADETC) in rural Laos. At Saoban’s shop, young entrepreneurs develop business skills while providing much-needed markets for village products that range from bamboo-silk handbags to naturally dyed silk scarves. This is part of PADETC’s vision for Laos: education for sustainable development.

Mulberries is the market brand of the Lao Sericulture Co., a not-for-profit organization that is accredited by the World Fair Trade Organization (formerly IFAT, the International Fair Trade Association). Its goal is to strengthen the position of women in Laos by providing them with dependable incomes and to preserve their sophisticated weaving and natural dyeing techniques. Women are further trained to bring diverse skills and environmental sustainable to the complex cycle of silk production with extraordinary results. Founder Kommaly Chantavong was a nominee for 1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005 for her work on this important project that is recognized for its poverty alleviation, cultural preservation and peace building.

Green Net Coop helps Thai organic farmers market their products. One Green Net project brings together grandmothers who grow, spin and weave organic cotton in Ban Kokkabok in Loei province with sewers in Panmai Group in Northeast Thailand, who transform the cloth into children’s sunhats and baby products. Read the story of the Kokkabok Women’s Cotton Group.

Fai Gaem Mai helps groups in Northern Thailand
develop handwoven silk products.

Fai Gaem Mai
is based in Chiang Mai University and helps community-based production groups in Northern Thailand develop handwoven Eri silk products, one of the textile products that TAMMACHAT carries. The Eri silkworm feeds on the leaves of cassava, rather than mulberry, providing additional income for villagers already growing this high-volume, low-value commodity.

Suan Nguen Mee Ma Company (Garden of Fruition) was founded by Sulak Sivaraksa, who was honoured with the Right Livelihood Award (the “Alternative Nobel Prize”), to explore new markets for indigenous crafts, to publish educational materials and to act as a small-scale, practice-based “think tank.” Among their projects, they support small groups of farmers in Nan, Thailand to revitalize organic cotton growing, spinning and weaving, and to preserve heritage varieties of naturally coloured cotton.

Each of these groups bring their special skills in creating their unique products. We feel honoured to work with and learn from them when we visit on our annual networking/buying trips, deepening our relationships each year. The products highlighted in this post are available at TAMMACHAT Natural Textile’s Fair Trade Textile Events. Select products are also available in TAMMACHAT’s Online Shop. Visit www.tammachat.com to learn more.

Voices of the Weavers

“You must consider the whole process if you want to support this art.
It is difficult to produce by hand.
Our work is real women’s group work, handmade art and tradition.”
Mae Samphun Jundaeng, Chairperson,
Panmai Group
, Northeast Thailand

“We want to work with natural dyes –
it’s better for our health and for the environment.
The colours we use in our weavings depend on the plants
available around our village.
I am told that most people appreciate my work –
especially the colours.”

Noi Simpree, Member, Panmai Group, Northeast Thailand

TAMMACHAT Natural Textiles imports fairly traded, naturally dyed, handcrafted textiles directly from the artisan groups that create them. TAMMACHAT, which mean ‘natural’ in Thai, was established in 2007 by Alleson Kase and Ellen Agger. Alleson and Ellen love textiles and had been involved with both fiber and empowering women for decades.

Ellen Agger, co-founder of TAMMACHAT Natural Textiles. See Part 1 of this post to learn more about TAMMACHAT's mission.

Ellen is a member of our Fiber Focus Group.

Clicking on her slide show below will take you to her page:

Find more photos like this on Fiber Focus



  1. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  2. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.




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