The Artisans of Ankor tour of their silk farm was fantastic, even if you aren't a geek about fiber arts. We got to see the process from start to finish which quickly dissolved my concern about the price of the scarf I was coveting.
Our first visit was to the silk worm nurseries. Like the butterflies I raise, they are ravenous eaters and a fresh pile of leaves are added daily.
Once ready they are placed on a large basket with spiraling channels, where they will form their cocoons.
The cocoons are then collected. About 20 percent of cocoons are saved to start the next generation of silk worms.
The other 80 percent are thrown into boiling water where first the outer layer of raw silk and then the inner layer of "fine" silk is extracted. There is approximately 400 yards of silk per cocoon. 100 is raw and 300 fine. I felt bad for the little buggers, but after seeing the resulting moths any lingering guilt was fleeting.
The silk is naturally a lustrous yellow. The yarn is then spun and a warp prepared.
This team of girls are threading the warp onto the reed.
And then the loom is set up.
The most fascinating process is the ikat. The weft is wound tightly on a board and certain sections are tied off with plastic. It is then dyed. Where the plastic was, the original color remains. This process is repeated many times and takes days to complete.
Each ikat section is then wound onto a bobbin and woven in pattern. It emerges beautifully.