Not too long ago Elysse and I visited the Silk Farm just outside of Siem Reap. Students live and study here for one year, and upon completion return to their home towns (or to wherever they want, I suppose) to work and train others. They only train in one small part of the very lengthy process, which shall be outlined below.
First, the worms are fed mulberry leaves, which I’m told is the same in Australia. They are kept in cupboards in a wooden building on stilts. The stilts are in water to prevent ants getting in and eating the worms.
The worms are then left to make cocoons, which is where the silk comes from.
In nature it looks more like this.
Some of the cocoons are kept for breeding purposes, the others are put in the sun. The drying process kills the growing worms inside.
They are then placed in boiling water. The outside of the cocoon starts to unravel and this is caught up and fed onto a large reel. The thread from the outside of the cocoon becomes raw silk.
The process is repeated with the inner part of the cocoon, making finer silk.
The thread is then cleaned and stripped of any lumps.
It is dyed using natural dyes.
For some reason I didn’t photograph the design part. Some women are trained in marking the threads for the patterns. They tie plastic at various points before dying to create the colourful patterns which are then woven very precisely using a loom.
And then pretty things are made! Check out this awesome cocoon dress!
My purchases included a silk pillow case (it had an elephant on it, I couldn’t resist), a silk head scarf, and yes, I’m the person who bought two cotton scarves at a silk farm.