January 6, 2013
Another couple of cycling tourists checked into our guesthouse. They managed to catch us at breakfast and joined us. It was really nice chatting with them. They had been on the road for 18 months, starting in England and had traveled almost completely overland. They had a lot of great advice, including taking some Ciprofloxacin for Chan’s continued stomach bug.
Whatever we caught was hard to shake but we decided to do a short ride to see the silk farm outside of town. The farm is pretty cool and they give a free tour of the entire operation.
The process begins with moths laying eggs. When the baby caterpillars hatch they will eat only mulberry leaves.
When the caterpillars turn yellow they are ready to be transferred to a basket to make their cocoons. They make their cocoons from a single strand of silk that they spin around themselves hundreds of times.
Only 20% of the caterpillars are allowed to reach adulthood to make more caterpillars. The cocoons are left out in the sun, and then boiled to kill the caterpillar inside, otherwise they would destroy the silk when emerging from the cocoon. Apparently, the little dead bugs make a delicious snack and aren’t wasted. Our guide ate a few, but Chandler and I weren’t up to the challenge. The boiled silk are then spun together to make threads for weaving.
The natural cool of the silk is yellow, so it is usually then bleached and dyed. The last step is weaving the silk into beautiful scarves or other fabric.
Unfortunately, the tour guide rushed us through the tour rather impatiently as we came right before lunch. We would have liked to linger and take more photos of the process. It was still really cool and I’m glad we took the time to go to the silk farm.