The Art of Thai Spinning Silk

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The fine filaments that makes up lustrious & strong Thai silks begin their journey looking fragile, and almost invisible to the eye.

Cocoons boiling in a vat

What is left of the long forgotten paths of Asia, where merchants would ply their goods and barter their wares? It has reached around the world today..Silk..
The one time trading commodity, a fabric rich with the history of ancient dynasties & crumbled empires. Once a nation's secret textile art for a thousand years, once reserve for royalties (or off with your head), once with a 4,000 mile long road named after it...we now gleefully put on our silks, royalty or not! But what of the artisans practicing these centuries old techniques, drawing silken fibers out from cocoons and spinning them in to silk? Here's the (somewhat lost) art of spinning silk...

 

A long and hot process, silk spinning is traditionally done by the men as they sit by large vats of boiling water full of cocoons. Yellow cocoons for silk worms of the Thai varieties and white cocoons for the Chinese variety. Here, this beautifully ornate pot is small compared to the wider cauldrons that are usually used, as from 10,000 cocoons comes only a mere 4lbs of raw silk. 
Looking like strands of cobwebs, multiple strands of silk fiber unwound from each cocoon are threaded through an eyelet above the boiling vat to form a single thread of silk. They are slowly reeled up, with the artisan spinner expertly knowing the right amount of give that wouldn't break the delicate fibers. Above the eyelet, the combined fibers becomes a strong single strand and gets wound around a wooden spool laid across.


Rubbing the strands to smoothen down any stray fibers. Cocoons of the Thai variety when woven, produces silk fabrics with tiny bumps. A natural occurrence, the diameter of silk fibers are not constant in diameter throughout it's entire length resulting in little bumps when woven in to it's entirety. Looking like knotty errors in somebody's knittings, those are actually the proud trademark of Thai silk. Love or hate it, this irregularity is a unique trait prized by Thai silk connoisseurs.

Traditionally, women did the lighter load of silk spinning, such as dyeing the threads, organizing them into lustrous bundles & weaving them in to the eventual cloths. Similar to hair, silk has the ability to regulate body temperatures: dispelling heat on warm days, traps warmth on cool days. Go from Summer backyard chillin' to airport flyer lounge to resort laid-back in a pair of silks from The Travel Apparel.

Bundles of silken thread with a quiet sheen: turquoise, gold, yellow & red are favored colors in the Thai culture.

Spun Silk Threads

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