THAILAND'S JEWEL TEXTILE
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli
Silk has been known to the world for 1,000 years. The
ancient Silk Road linked China with the West, and carried goods and ideas
between the great civilizations of Rome and China.
Today silk is rapidly gaining popularity worldwide due to its luster,
beautiful texture, and durable quality.
BOLTS OF SHINING SILK
Sericulture and silk weaving have been closely associated with Thai
people for centuries. Based on folk wisdom, instructions on how to raise
silkworms and the techniques and patterns of the weaving itself have been
passed on from generation to generation. Traditionally, sericulture has
been a secondary occupation among farm households, whose first concern is
This cottage industry is highly labor intensive and provides
a vast number of jobs and supplemental income for those who would normally
be unemployable. A large labor reserve of the disadvantaged, women, the
elderly and children all benefit through their participation in the
production of this magnificent textile.
The raising of silkworms is fascinating and complex. Tiny worms are
hand fed shredded mulberry leaves exclusively, and all droppings are
removed. Silkworms, or luk nang, have five growth stages. Sometimes a
whole village is involved in the feeding cycles, the cleaning and the
protection of these cocoons, which takes a total of 26-28 days before the
silk nests are finally available to render silk thread.
The breeding of silk worms is not easy either. They can die
at any time, for no apparent reason, before the nests are matured.
Sometimes the entire lot is gone because of contamination.
The yarn drawing process must be completed within seven days after the
nests are matured, or the caterpillars in the nests will emerge as
butterflies. Silkworm nests must be dried in the intense heat of the sun
to ensure the caterpillars are dead. Then these nests are submerged into
boiling water. Once they surface, it is time to draw the silk threads with
a stick, to transfer them to a basket and more nests are added to the
boiling water. The yarn is then spun, and afterwards, bleached.
In the olden days, liquid from roasted banana leaves was
used to bleach the silk. After bleaching in the liquid for an hour or two,
it is then dried in the sun. Then the silk is dyed and spooled onto the
harness. It is at this point where one must persevere. Tying silk yarn
that finally amounts to tens of thousands of silk threads truly calls for
When weaving a plain color with no design, eight yards a day is
expected. However, many weaves are of intricate patterns, and a day's
worth may be only an inch or two of production.
SPOOLING SILK ON LOOM
Jim Thompson, famous in Thailand, is largely given credit for reviving
the sagging Thai silk trade in the middle of the last century. He was
responsible for replacing the traditional vegetable dyes with high
quality, color fast Swiss dyes, virtually eliminating the occurrence of
unpredictable colors or the fading so common with the vegetable dyes. He
introduced commercial looms utilizing a foot pedal operated shuttle which
significantly raised daily production output. He built up an industry
using a network of Muslim weavers in Bangkok, and soon attracted
international attention via Vogue Magazine. In 1951, Thai silk was
featured in the Broadway production of The King and I, and mesmerized the
public at large with the stunning beauty of Thai silk.
WEAVING SINGLE COLOR SILK
Jim Thompson standardized the industry, introduced strict guidelines
for production, and formulated an inspection process of silk cocoons that
is still being used today. He also expanded the non traditional uses of
Thai silk, such as producing heavy silks for upholstery, which broadened
Thai silks' popularity.
Silk making brings a sense of pride and accomplishment to everyone who
plays a part in the production process. Given the combination of so many
elements and such rich history, a beautiful piece of silk fabric is
considered the fruit of perseverance and culture.
About the Authors
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are
recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on
topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of
information they share on their award winning website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com,
they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since
1991. They wrote the popular books, The
Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your
Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website
Early Lifestyle appeals to a different
kind of person – the person who prizes their
independence, values their time, and who doesn’t
want to mindlessly follow the crowd.
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