Silk in the Making

by HelluvaGirl

A couple of days ago, the Nielsens and I had a chance to visit Chiang Mai’s Silk Factory. We were given a small yet informative tour as on how ugly little worms produce smooth and precious threads which later become silk – one of my all-time favourite materials (beside several other silk items, I’m a proud owner of a very beautiful silk dress tailor-made here in Chiang Mai 2,5 years ago).

Silk is not only very practical as it keeps you warm in cold weather and lets the body breathe when it’s hot. Silk is one of the few materials that’s tolerated by highly allergic people (when Pia was a newborn and one of those poor thingies bothered by atopic dermatitis, we bought her a silk hat and several undergarments which made her sufferings much easier).

Therefore, it was really interesting to watch the process of natural silk production.

Here are some pictures from our excursion.

In the one below, the worms look like that when they’re dead already and sort of mummified 🙂

Young beauties:

Later, the worms stop eating and start making cocoons around themselves. It turns out that silk naturally comes only in two colours – white and yellow. It is later dyed in various colours.

The cocoons are heated in water and threads are made:

After this, the worms are dead:

Natural silk threads are quite rough to touch. They become smooth only after washing in soapy water.

A woman weaving silk:

In various bazaars, I’ve been shouted at more times than one: “Buy madame! Thai silk! One hundred per cent!” I never believe them. Silk has it’s price, and local people rarely wear it. Nobody ever understood what I wanted when asking: “Silk clothes? For baby?” It’s cotton at best. And in the Night Bazaar, where Mr. Nielsen got his Breitling for an unspeakably high price considering it stopped the next morning, they push you into buying cheap polyester stuff swearing it’s Thai silk madame! One hundred per cent!

In Silk Factory, the guide told us silk often is not as shiny as polyester (though there really are many ways of processing it and the texture varies from rough and quite stiff to very smooth and shiny); when burnt, it smells like burnt human hair, while polyester stinks like plastic; silk burns leaving ashes, while polyester simply melts. Thought would be a nice technique to try out in the Night Bazaar with some nightgown 🙂 Thai prisons aren’t tempting, though.

It’s a pity shooting in the shop was not allowed. You should’ve seen the range, the colours of materials stacked near the walls… And the clothes, the souvenirs… I could stand there for hours touching things! Finally, as we rushed out to the museum of gems, I bought this royal blue scarf for Augustas which he loved:

Photo: mine.