Thursday, December 4, 2008


On the morning of November 30, we got up and pulled our warm covers off of us and got dressed in the freezing cold weather! Avocet and I did not want to wake up so early when the weather was freezing but we knew we were going to do something exciting today- we were going to go to Ock Pop Tok!!!!!!!! Ock Pop Tok is a place where they raise silk worms, dye silk, and weave silk. That morning we would get to experience all of that.

After getting out of the tuk-tuk, the first thing we did was sit down and get some tea. I don't think it was for drinking though, it was probably a hand warmer!!!! Then after we got a little warmed up, we learned the history of silk and how the silkworms are raised. Silk was first discovered in China. It was discovered by a Chinese princess thousands of years ago. Some say she discovered it when a cocoon dropped into her tea!!! YUCK!!!!!!!!!!!! Soon, the Chinese were happily trading silk as far as India and the Mediterranean. These routes were called the silk roads. Soon India was producing silk and later on Italy had the biggest silk industry in Europe.

Silkworms live a happy life. Once they are born, they are put in a basket along with the other babies and mountains of mulberry leaves which they eat. They get fresh mulberry leaves for every meal: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. After 28 days, they start to build their cocoon. After their cocoon is built the poor little creatures have to die!!!!!!!!!! BOOOOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! You may wonder how they still have silkworms when they all have to die? Well some are lucky and don't have to die and are just used in the breeding process.

After we learned about silkworms, we went down to an area where we would be dyeing our silk. At Ock Pop Tok, they only use natural dyes and colours from the Earth. Each colour comes from some kind of plant and can be mixed with different things to alter the colours. We got to choose three different colours. I choose: yellow, purple, and green. Yellow comes from a Tumeric root, purple comes from the Sappan tree and green comes from the Indigo plant. To make yellow, the first thing you do is chop the tumeric root. You then mash it with a mortar and pestal and then add the paste to a pot of boiling water on a fire. After it is ready, you take the pot of water off the fire and poor the water into a bowl. The tumeric you throw away. This is because the water is dyed with the colour of the tumeric. Finally, you put the silk in the bowl of water and after it is ready, put it out to dry in the sun. To make green it is the same process except it is a cold water dye meaning that you don't use boiled water. The purple we couldn't make totally by ourselves since it had to be fermented before hand. Then you put the purple dye in a pot to boil. After it's finished, you pour the dye into a separate bowl and let the silk soak. After we finished dying we each had three beautiful braids of coloured silk!!!!!!

Before lunch, we picked out 2 braids of silk from a bag and spun them onto spools using a spinning wheel.

Then we had lunch. After lunch we went to the area where we would be weaving silk into short wall hangings about 45 centimeters. When we got there we saw our 2 colours of silk that we picked out on spools which were on shuttles. Weaving on a big loom is a bit complicated at first. You start off on one side of the loom. Whichever hand the shuttle's in you press down on the pedal on the same side. You only use one foot. The pedal makes a space where your shuttle can slide through to the other side. Once it's on the other side, you press down on the other pedal and bring the comb down. The comb pushes the part you just wove down to tighten it. After a couple of hours we each had created beautiful wall hangings!!!!!!!!!!!!

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