I usually choose silk yarn when I crochet hats, scarves and gloves but I never though much about how the yarn itself is made. So I spent an hour one morning riding my bike out to the Angkor Silk Farm, part of an initiative to revive Cambodian skills and art following the Khmer Rouge civil war.
It was International Children’s Day so the farm was really quiet with many staff having taken the day off but there was still someone on hand to show me the process of growing, harvesting, spinning, dyeing and weaving silk.
First step was the mulberry bushes, grown especially for the silk worms. The leaves are broken into very small pieces for the baby worms to happily munch away.
When they’re bigger the worms start building a bright yellow cocoon to wrap themselves up in.
Left to their own devices they would eventually turn into moths but there wouldn’t be any silk. My guide told me that the only way to get silk from the silk worms was to harvest it before the moths break free from the cocoons. This is done by either putting the cocoons in the hot sun or, more commonly, in boiling water while the silk threads are extracted. Definitely not a vegan process but as I’m not vegan I probably won’t morally object to the specific growth of worms to make silk but it sure made me think.
The silk is then spun and dried (sometimes blended with other materials) but the most interesting part is the weaving. I kind of want to be a 16th Century woman and spend my days weaving bolts of silk cloth. Though it does look like hard work (and in Cambodia, ever harder in the heat).
The tour concluded with a rush through a museum (I returned without my guide) and a visit to the gift shop. The finished products at Angkor Silk Farm are luxurious and gorgeous but also very much out of y price range (especially as I’d left the house without my wallet). So I cycled back along the shaded road through the farm, and back only the busy road into town.
Tips for visiting Angkor Silk Farm
- It’s free!
- A tuk tuk can take you from town or there is a free shuttle bus from the shop in the city centre.
- Cycling there takes about an hour, just followed Road 6 towards the airport but go straight at the roundabout where you would normally turn right to the airport. The road winds along but there are a few signs and it’s very obvious where to turn off to the Farm.