13 months
Dec 27:
hanging with the monks
Dec 28:
run, don't walk, to cambodia
Dec 29:
not WAT i expected
Dec 29:
my favorite
Jan 3:
the lowdown
all galleries
next location

sign over a cell phone shop
Phnom Penh, Jan 2, 2005

silky smooth

Cambodian silk is reknown for its high quality and gorgeous colors. Curious about how silk is made, I convinced Grace to spend an afternoon at a silk factory outside Siem Reap where local youth learn the process of making silk from worm to weave, with the intention of working in the silk industry, ideally opening their own businesses. [Update: The name of the Silk Factory is Artisans d'Angkor - see comment/question below.]

silk from the worm to the spindle
winding the silk
We learned a lot of neat things about making silk. Here's what I found most interesting:
  - The quality of silk does not depend so much on the worm's origin (Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, etc.), but more on the conditions (food, environment) in which it's raised.
  - Each worm produces two kinds of silk for its cocoon - a thin inner layer ("fine" silk) and a thicker outer layer ("raw" silk). It takes 1,000 cocoons to make a medium-sized sweater!
  - After the worm produces its silk, the weavers boil the cocoons (worms inside) and remove the silk by hand, using a spindle. The knots are then removed and the silk is dyed, dried and ready for weaving.
weaver working on a loom

The weavers at this particular silk factory make each piece of cloth the traditional way, with a loom, by hand. The actual weaving is amazing to watch. The weaver runs a piece of wood (called a shuttle) with colored thread up and down between a base layer of threads to create a pattern. The weaver has to remember exactly where they are in the pattern or painfully unweave if they make a mistake. After the silk is woven it goes off to the sewing room for final production (of garments, etc.).

The quality of the silk made from this process is very high and it's easy to understand now why quality silk can be so pricey.

© 2004-2012 susan & grace, all rights reserved

-- comments from readers --


I returned from Siem Reap recently and would like to strongly suggest that collectors of textiles (and those who want to learn more about silk) visit the Institute for Khmer Traditional Textiles or IKTT. Kikuo Morimoto, a Rolex award laureate who runs the place is reviving traditional techniques. The look and feel of the weaves from his workshop are wonderful. His weavers use authentic Cambodian materials and techniques all the way and I beieve this is important for silk lovers to know. It disappointed me that a great deal of Cambodian silk is only authentic only as far as their being woven in the country. Generally,the raw materials are largely Vietnamese and the colours used are not likely to be natural. I believe one needs to bear this in mind when purchasing if one is going after really good stuff.

--Pauline L. (Malaysia); Nov 28, 2005


I am planning my own RTW and am considering visiting Cambodia as well...I would be interested in visiting a silk factory as you did..If possible can you provide me with the info of the place that you visited? Or how I can find out more?

Thanks. Great Site. It's now bookmarked.

--Kay (Toronto, Canada); Jun 20, 2005

Thanks for bookmarking the site and for writing! Congratulations on deciding to do a RTW trip - we're sure you will love it.

As we understand there are two silk factories in/around Siem Reap, one that is in town and one that is out of town. We went to the one out of town called, Artisans d'Angkor and if you ask any driver to take you to the silk factory out of town, they'll know which one you are interested in. We heard the one out of town is less touristy and although we didn't go to the one in town, we enjoyed the tour at Le Artisans d'Angkor (we were the only tourists there at the time) and they had beautiful silks for sale.

Here's a link to their website: Artisans d'Angkor

--Susan; Jun 22, 2005