Yok cloth uses the heald-lifting technique whereby the heald shafts are lifted to allow the insertion of extra wefts, which lay on the top layer, to create various motifs. If the extra wefts are of silk yarns, the cloth is called Yok Mai cloth (Mai - silk), if they are of golden silk yarns, the cloth is called Yok Thong cloth (Thong - gold, golden).
The key characteristic of this technique is the addition of the extra wefts throughout the length of the fabric and intermittently, as required by the design, by lifting the heald shaft to insert the extra wefts to create raised motifs. Other weaving techniques are also incorporated to create intricate motifs such as the extra warp technique, the tie-dying of weft and warp yarns before weaving, and the intermittent weft technique, for example.
Yok cloth was first used by the people who lived in the Chao Phraya River Basin and the upper part of the Thailand’s southern peninsula. It enjoyed widespread use among the people in the royal court and the commoners who used it as skirt, cloak, sash, napkin etc. It was highly considered and was used on special occasions to show off one’s status and enhance one’s personality. Several customs exist that prescribe the use of Yok cloth.
During the reign of King Rama V, the use of Yok cloth spread from the communities living in the Chao Phraya River Basin and the upper part of the southern peninsula to other societies and regions such as the Lanna and the Isan (the northern and the northeastern regions of Thailand) where the Yok cloth weaving technique is incorporated and blended with the local weaving tradition of these regions. This gave birth to several types of Yok cloth with local character and identity -- Yok Lanna cloth and Yok Ubon (province) cloth, for example. Today, Yok cloth is widespread and well-known throughout all regions of Thailand.
The intricate designs of Yok cloth have aesthetic value that inspire and stimulate artistic creativity. Moreover, the subject-matters and the intangible cultural contexts -- the function and use, the allocation of space for putting in the motifs on the fabric, the motif designs, the material used, the tools and technology involved, the link between the fabric and the environment, for example -- are testimony to the collective cultural memory. They record and tell history and reflect the social development and the economic structure of the country.