The process of silk production varies slightly from country to country. The raw silk material is a natural product of the silkworm, which is a type of moth that feeds on the mulberry bush. When the silkworm moves from the larva stage to the pupa stage of development, it spins a cocoon like all other moths and butterflies. This cocoon comes from the larva moth's salivary glands and is woven through a complex set of mechanisms within the moth's anatomy. The finished cocoon is pulled from the mulberry bush and placed in a vat of boiling water, which separates the silk thread of the cocoon from the caterpillar inside.
The silkworms of Thailand are grown primarily on the Korat Plateau in the country's northeast region, although the majority of silk production takes place in the Chiangmai area. The silk thread of Thailand's silkworms is a natural gold color and one cocoon consists of one thread that is often as long as 500 meters. Each thread is too thin to use alone so many threads are combined to make a thicker, more practical fibre. The raw silk threads are washed and bleached before being placed in vats of hot dyes. The result is washed again and stretched before being put through a final dying process. After the final dying and drying, the threads are wound onto drums and sent to weaving shops where the silk cloth is produced.
Some of the silk production centres maintain their own mulberry gardens where they grow silkworms, and a visit to one of these includes all aspects of silk production from the cocoon growing stage to the weaving of the finished product. At these, hand operated looms are often used and one weaver produces only four meters of silk cloth in a single day.
Thai Silk Products
The Thai silk product range includes everything from fabric lengths in 2-ply and 4-ply to small silk handkerchiefs. Within the range are shirts and blouses, scarves and neckties, bathrobes and kimonos, men's suits and ladies silk jackets, and bedcovers and furnishings. Prices vary, but generally the handkerchiefs and neckties are at the lower end while suits, jackets and bedcovers are at the higher end.