Next we bring you the story of how the Mulberry Queen Silk scarves come to be the beautiful creations they are. Although P’Puy and her team create beautifully made products, it’s a long and physically demanding process to achieve those results. Thai silk is famous for its lovely softness, and read on to learn more about how silk is made.

Raising Silkworms

The worms are placed on a bamboo tray, fed mulberry leaves three times a day and monitored at all times.

 

The artisans start by the silk creation process harvesting the silkworms -- a process that takes almost a month. The worms are placed on a bamboo tray, fed mulberry leaves three times a day and monitored at all times, almost like class pets for our silk community. The worms live for about 28 days before they harvest a cocoon. Something simple, like a fly laying eggs near the cocoons, can cause all to silkworms to die, so our artisans watch closely to protect the precious worms and the silk they hold. The artisans harvest hundreds of worms at a time, and each cocoon produces around 300 meters of silk filaments.

Harvesting the cocoons

The silkworm begins to turn a yellow color when it is ready to harvest, at which point it is transferred to another tray.

 

The cocoon turns bright yellow when it’s ready to be harvested. At this point, artisans place these developed silk worms in boiling water, which stops the cocoon from growing into a butterfly and rids the cocoon of the sticky residue from the bamboo tray. A few cocoons are left out of the water and allowed to grow into butterflies, which lay new eggs to provide more works for the harvesting process.

Thread extraction

Left: The bright yellow cocoons are placed in boiling water, which stops the cocoon from growing into a butterfly and rids the cocoon of the sticky residue from the bamboo tray. Right: After the filaments are extracted, the worm is eaten, providing a great source of protein for the women.

 

The cocoons are stirred with a spatula in the boiling water. This process loosens the silk filaments, which are strung through a wooden spindle that combines the filaments of several cocoons together into one strand of silk. One filament isn’t strong enough to use on its own and must be combined to create a stronger, usable silk fiber for weaving. The combined threads are then placed in another pot of boiling water to further eliminate the sticky residue, then hung up to dry in the sun.

 

The combined silk threads and dried before being dyed.

 

Dyeing the silk

The next step is dying the silk into the beautiful colors of Sapahn scarves. The silk is again placed in a pot of boiling water, but this time with color dye. It takes years of experience to dye the silk, since soaking it for different lengths of time will produce different hues of color.

 

Silk threads are dyed blue, then again hung out to dry.

Spinning the silk

After achieving the perfect color and drying the threads again, the artisans use a handmade spinning wheel to wind the thread onto a bobbin. This bobbin will then be used to weave the threads together to create a scarf design. 

 

An artisan woman uses a handmade spinning wheel to spool the thread onto a bobbin.

 

Weaving the silk

The process for weaving the silk can differ slightly depending on the scarf design produced. Weaving looms are large structures operated by pushing the harness down with one's feet to separate the threads. When two threads of silk are separated by the loom, a third thread is shuttled between them, creating the weaved design. 

 

Wooden weaving loom in Thailand

 

The last step in the process is to braid the tassels of the scarves, which is done with only the hands and feet of the women. The threads are placed between their toes and pulled apart into strands sufficient for the tassels. 

 

Tying silk tassels

 

Each step in this process is performed in P’Puy's silk compound, from the raising of the silkworms to the completion of the final scarf. None of the process is done by automated machine, and the women still make the silk in much the same way as in ancient times, passed down through many generations of talented Thai women.

 

This process ensures that the scarves are made ethically and the worker's rights adhere to Sapahn's mission. The women in the compound take great care to ensure each step is done properly and each scarf has the personal, handmade touch.

 

Visit our Silk Scarves page to shop your favorite style! 

 

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