Friday, January 10, 2014

23. Silk production

This morning, Vanak, my trusty tuk-tuk driver and I got ready for a short cross-country trip to see the silk farms and production facility, until 2010 financed by the European Union. Silk farming was always an important part of Cambodia's economy, but like almost everything else in this country except for the military, such as universities, schools, healthcare facilities, libraries, commerce it was destroyed under the Khmer Rouge regime. Funding from the West is used to revive the craft, educate, buy machinery and built facilities. The project was originally called "Chantiers-Ecoles de Formation Professionnelle", and is now managed entirely by a Cambodian enterprise.

Before we reached the farms, we came across an amazing sight: "Small-scale fishing" in a muddy trench, conducted by three siblings in front of their house. Please watch!

The silk farming process is sensitive to many environmental factors, such as the heat, mosquitoes, termites, even strong perfume by visitors, and smoke from cigarettes can kill the worms. These feed on mulberry leaves. The mulberry bushes grow directly adjacent to the silk manufacturing facilities.

Building columns are set into a water filled little pool to prevent termites and other insects to crawl up to where the silk worms are kept. Since standing water would be a unwelcome breeding ground for mosquitoes it contains a significant amount of salt.

The worms feeding on mulberry leaves.

Mating process. It takes 24 hours, afterwards the male part is dead.


They consist of two layers of silk: Outer raw silk, and inner fine silk.

For easier handling they are inserted into a circular wicker basket.

Mulberry leaves.

Boiling of the cocoons in water. A thin thread can be developed.

The tread is rolled up.

This is cotton, not silk. New apprentices learn with the cheaper material the weaving techniques.

The weaving is a very time-consuming process.

At the end of the process the fringes are rolled on the weavers leg and fixed.

Pattern calculations

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