One of the things I really liked about visiting Siem Reap was going to a Silk Worm Farm.
We took a tuk tuk to the Silk Worm Farm during the second day of our stay in Siem Reap. When we arrived, there was a guide waiting for us. He was good at speaking English. He took us from room, to room, to room while explaining the process. This is some of what I learned.
First, a male moth and a female moth mate and as soon as they are done mating, the female lays approximately 300 eggs and the male dies. Then, when the eggs hatch, the female dies. It’s a bit sad, isn’t it? It’s like an orphanage for the worms.
While they are on the trays, they start working on making their cocoons, using their saliva. It takes almost a month for them to make the cocoons.
The outer part of a cocoon is the raw silk and the inner part is the fine silk. When the cocoon is finished, the moths chew their way out of the cocoons and the people who work a the Farm grab the moths and place a male and a female together (the male is smaller than the female) like matchmakers. The moths then mate and start the cycle all over again.
Separate from the worms, is the precious silk. First, the cocoons are put into boiling water to separate the raw silk from the fine silk.
It’s hard work (and we learned that the people who work there only get paid $4 for an 8-hour workday). Each cocoon makes 40 meters of silk. The silk is so fine. It’s thinner than a piece of thread used for sewing. You can barely see the silk threads; they’re so thin.
After the thread has been put onto big spools – in most instances using bicycle wheels – natural die (from rubber trees, mint leaves, lavendar and other plants) are used to turn the silk red, pink, yellow, green, blue and other colors.
Finally, the silk is woven into scarves, bedsheets, tablecloths, pillowcases – even covers for notebooks and pencilcases. I bought a beautiful silk-covered notebook and my parents bought raw silk scarves.