Sunday, November 18, 2007


Yesterday morning I went to a silk factory. Very interesting.
They show the entire process from the eggs of the silk worms all the way through to the end product.At first, the worms are white. They eat mulberry leaves.Once they get big enough, they stop eating and turn a yellow color.They are then placed on either dried branches (traditional method) or a basket (modern method), where they spin their cocoons. Both the branches and baskets are still used, only the basket makes collecting the cocoons much easier. Cambodian silk worm silk is naturally yellow.
Once the cocoons are fully made, they are collected and then processed. Two kinds of silk come from each cocoon. The outer silk threads are thicker and rougher.The cocoons are placed in boiling water and unwound (I forget how many are used for each thread).Then the inner silk threads are unwound. You can see the difference in the silk texture if you look at the spindles. The silk is then bleached and colored using either natural or chemical dyes. The natural dyes are made using a variety of things such as leaves, bark, rusty nails, etc.The combinations are interesting, and looking at the raw materials for the dyes, the resulting colors are sometimes surprising.
Some silk is dyed using the tie dye method, dying the threads with the pattern before weaving. It is a quite complicated and time consuming process.The threads are laid out and tied in spots, dyed, re-tied, dyed, etc. according to the colors of the pattern. Once dyed, the threads have to be woven in the correct order.
The weaving is mostly done manually.The threads are threaded by hand into slots in the loom. As the threads are so fine, good eyesight is a must, so only younger adults (18-25?) do this job.Once threaded, the weaving can begin. The time taken for each item depends on the complexity of the pattern. Some are done fairly quickly, some take up to a day or more for just 1' of material. The more complex the pattern, the more poles/bars (?) are needed in the loom.Newer looms are very basic and plain. Traditionally, they were very ornate.

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