As we are hoping at some point in the future to knit with local silk yarn, I 'investigated' the silk making process at the fair in Siem Reap a few weeks ago. There were two booths set up that sold locally produced silk, one which displayed the silk making process and the other, the silk weaving process. Just because it's really interesting, I'm posting the wormy photos here with a brief explanation of what's going on.
First, very little, tiny, tiny worms. So tiny you can't really see them, but I promise they are there.
The worms eat and eat and eat mulberry leaves and get bigger.
They keep gorging and get bigger and juicier. Yum, big juicy silk worms.
After a few weeks of non-stop eating action, the silk worms decide it is time to move onto the next stage in life and hide themselves in a cocoon of beautiful, golden silk.
Unfortunately, for the silk worms, humans love silk and the only way to get it from the cocoon is to boil the unsuspecting worms alive. Silk is not vegan-friendly.
The threads of many cocoons are spun together into a single thread. Slowly each cocoon is unraveled back to its origin, a now expired silk worm, which like anything organic, can be eaten.
And finally, after dying using local natural dyes, from bark, leaves, indigo, the finished product: silk.
Unfortunately, like so many things, silk production was all but decimated under the Pol Pot regime and has yet to recover. There are a couple organizations working to help revive the industry, but it's a slow process. Most silk products sold in Cambodia are made from imported silk which is then dyed and woven in country. If we are ever able to source local silk yarn, it will be in very small quantities and only for exclusive, small lines of products.