A few days ago, while in Phonsavahn, Laos, I discovered an organic Mulberry and Silk farm just outside of town. I felt obliged to see what it was all about since it is a world where fashion textiles and nature combine. I was not disappointed!
In fact, I loved it so much, I am going to look for an organic farm everywhere else we go, on this trip and when I get back to the states, to visit and possibly work!
We have been exploring nature quite a bit during our time in Laos; going to caves and waterfalls, but being on this beautiful, serene farm surrounded by acres and acres of mulberry trees (which you could pick the fruit from and eat on the spot) and colorful, exotic flower gardens, is the first time I have really felt "in touch" with nature.
Below, you can see the Lao women spinning the silk after boiling the empty silkworm cocoons. They still spin and weave the silk daily by hand without the help of any large mass-production machines other than the one pictured below which is used only for very large export orders.
Most of the women who weave the silk are from three different ethnic groups in Laos: Black Tai, Red Tai, and Lao Phuan and on average, weave 1.5 meters of plain cloth per day. Intricately patterned pieces take about 10 days and specialty items can take over a month! It is an art form that requires a lot of patience!
"No matter if she weaves as long as the length of a water beetle's wing,
Or the size of a gnats eye,
If she cannot finish, he may choose to wear the unfinished yarn.
But people say when she puts her palm down,
A pattern is already made.
When she turns her palm over, a motif is completed.
Leaning on her elbow, a lotus pattern is produced.
That is what people say;
That is why our young man wishes to marry her."
Traditional courting song, taken from Legends in the Weaving, by Douangdeuane Bounyavong hanging in the weaving house.