|Neil Dana reporting from Siem Reap, Cambodia:|
Angkor Silk Farm
had the very educating experience of going to the Angkor Silk Farm, about 15
miles outside of Siem Riep. I
took a tuk-tuk out to the farm, which took about 45 minutes, since the driver
was driving so slowly. It was
quite an enjoyable ride through the country.
In fact, getting out of the city, we almost ran over all the school
kids getting out of class. There
were hundreds of students pouring into the streets on foot and bicycle.
It was quite a display of organized excitement.
Heading out towards the silk farm, we passed many small houses, rice
fields, and other great scenes, such as a girl taking her bull into the yard!
You also see all the different modes of transportation as well, such as
mopeds, ox carts, huge construction trucks with lopped-off roofs, funky
tractor dragsters, and the old trusty bicycle.
And after a busy day on the road, you must wash off and cleanse
yourself, so I was blessed to see some young kids taking a little
"shower", so to speak.
arrived at the Angkor Silk Farm just when all the workers were exiting for
lunch, and I didn't get to see the operation in full force with everyone
working. However, I did meet the
manager in charge, named Samol, and he was extremely helpful and toured me
around the entire farm and explained how the entire silk process works.
I will give you a brief synopsis here.
There might be some holes in my story, as it was hard to catch and
understand and remember everything he said.
Silk Farm was started in 1993 by the Cambodian Ministry of Education and
Sport. The land was donated by
the Cambodian Government to help the people.
It was funded by the French Embassy up until 1998, at which time the
European Union took over. From
2001 up until the present day, the silk farm has survived on its own by
selling all the gorgeous silks they create.
Now this silk farm is not only just a farm, but a training facility as
well. The workers are picked from
areas all over Cambodia, as young poor children between the ages of 18-25 who
have no other opportunities. They
are then brought to the training program for free for a year.
They are provided with hands-on training the entire time, with food and
shelter and a comfortable working environment with normal hours of operation.
When they are finished with their training, they can stay and work at
the farm and earn a living.
process, in a nutshell, goes from tree cultivation, to worm breeding, to
farming, and ends in textile production.
And it all begins with the Mulberry bush or tree.
When the farm started, they were using 30 different varieties of silk
trees from around Asia, including Cambodia, India, Vietnam, China and Japan.
Now they have a select 18 species that they have been using over and over
again for years. The silk worm
eats the leaves of the tree, mmmmn, yummy.
Now you know that when you eat food, you like it fresh and tasty, not
old and stale. Well, these silly
worms are the same way; they like the fresh leaves.
So this creates the technique they use of trimming the trees every
three months and keeping them to a maximum of 20 centimeters off the ground.
This way, the trees stay small and they can reuse fresh leaves for the
high-maintenance silk worms. Be
careful you ladies out there; if your hubby ever calls you a sweet silk worm,
he may mean something different than you thought!
may be wondering, well, if they cut the leaves, are the worms already outside
on the leaves being cut too, or lost? Well,
no. The worms are all kept
indoors in a greenhouse. And who
can guess the primary reason for this? I
thought for climate control or humidity or protection from the sun or harsh
rains. But the real reason is to
protect them from their predators, such as ants, flies, and all kinds of
beastly insects. So not only are
these silk worms picky about their eating habits, they need to be protected
all the time. Sounds more and
more like Chanda, Ooooh, did I just say that!
hee hee. So anyway, they
cut the leaves every three months and bring them inside the greenhouse and
feed the worms.
get to the worms. They have a
lifespan of 47 days!! Wow, and
you thought our life was short. Twelve
hours of their lives are spent as butterflies in search of and attaining
beautiful lasting relationships with one another.
Then the next 12 hours, they are in labor laying eggs. Once the eggs are laid, they require 12 days to hatch.
On the 10th day, the eggs are yellow, and at that point, they spend the
next two days in a box and turn gray before they hatch on Day 12.
So after they hatch, they spend 24 days growing up into big adults.
They spend the first 12 days eating five meals a day, and the last 12
days eating three times a day on those delicious Mulberry leaves.
And on the
25th day, they turn yellow!! Then
they go into their cocoon process, which lasts for 5 days.
The silk that people love so much is made from this very cocoon they
produce in those five days. In
fact, from one cocoon, you can unwind 400 meters of silk!
That's incredible! That is
four football field lengths of silk from one little cocoon.
So after they cocoon, the silk worms take three days to turn into a
butterfly, and then the whole process begins again.
the tree, silkworm, and farming process; now let's move on to the textile part
of it all. So, like I said
earlier, one cocoon produces 400 m of silk.
And from each cocoon, 25% is for traditional, or raw silk, and the
other 25% is used for improved, or fine silk.
The other 50% must get lost in the cleaning process.
It works like this: The
first layer of silk is the raw silk with knots on it, and the second layer is
much finer, softer, and lighter in color. They use a wooden mechanism to
extract the silk from the cocoon, which I believe is (KNEADING?); it is really
neat looking. They use different
devices for the fine and raw silk. Then
it must be cleaned by taking out the knots, and also putting it in a solution
of NaOH(?) After this, they then
dye the silks for hours until they attain the various colors they wish to use.
Then they let it dry in the sun for 3-4 days.
silk dries, you can notice the different types of silk.
The white silk is Chinese, the yellow Cambodian, and the darker
yellowish/brown is the Thai. And
of course there are the dyed silks, too.
Next, the silk must be wound by winding machines, which are very
interesting wooden mechanisms. And
all this is done by hand. After
the silk is wound up, they put it on a warping instrument to get the silk on
beams that are 100m in length. And
after all these different processes, the silk moves onto the famous loom.
And after the loom, then they have to reed the silk, which is kind of
like combing it, like you comb your hair. And
THEN, it goes to the framing process, where they cross warp the thread with a
pedal to lift up various cross sections and weave silks together.
TO THIS!! TYE DYE!!!!
I KNOW YOU LOVE TYE DYE SHIRTS, or at least you used to, or maybe your
brothers and sisters and parents did, but tye-dye came from this region of the
world, ASIA. Correctly spelled
Thai Dye, this is the process where they take the silk strands and weave
plastic strands through the white silk in a pattern that they choose to
create. By dragging the plastic
strands through the silk, it dyes it. And
by repeating the process in different directions and with an array of colors,
they create magnificent patterns. Think of it as if you ran a piece of
spaghetti with marinara sauce on it through someone's blonde hair that was
stretched out. You would create a
line across. Of course, with Thai
Dye, it is extremely precise and very labor intensive.
That is why patterned silk material is so expensive.
It takes a month longer to make the Thai Dye process happen. However,
it is well worth it and extremely beautiful and a masterful art.
The whole process takes 2-4 months, depending on the quality and style
of silk being made.
guess the last step is to put it up for sale or give it to someone you care
about. The silk here in the silk
farm store is breathtaking, with quite a range of beautiful silks to choose,
made right here in Cambodia, one of the sweetest countries I have ever
is the silk process as best I can describe it.
for taking the time to read my little story about Cambodia; I hope it puts a
little interest into your mind about this part of the world. Take care,