Monday, October 19, 2009

Old Lady Tour of Chiang Mai

After my cooking course, but before the trekking, I decided to take a mini-tour of local hand-crafts. Mostly I wanted to see the silk production and weaving, but I was interested in seeing what else there was. Shortly after I booked the tour it occurred to me that this would end up being a glorified shopping trip - and I was right. I was the only one on this 'tour' so basically, it was just like hiring a taxi for the day.

The first stop was the silk factory and it really was interesting. They had trays of silkworms on leaves, and in each stage of their development.
Then they showed how they boil the cocoons to release the fibers. They pull the threads from the outside of about fifty different cocoons and start spinning it. After they have a suitable amount, the silk is washed & put into hanks (it was interesting to feel the difference between the rough unwashed silk fibers and the well, more silky washed thread). As you probably know, the silkworms are killed in the process, and they did show a pan of the dead silkworms. Personally...since they would have become moths and moths like to nibble holes in lovely wool sweaters, I'm not too sad about this.

After the thread is washed & dyed, it is spun onto bobbins.

Then the bobbins are used with the looms to weave the cloth. The patterns are created by elaborate machinations involving threading different colors onto the loom to start, then lifting some threads up and some down at different parts and shuttling different colored bobbins of thread through them. I would really like to learn how to actually do this since it's all a bit vague and theoretical in my mind.

After this I was set loose in the shop and spent a long time fondling silk scarves & shirts and in a near superhuman show of restraint, I did not actually buy anything. Mostly this was because earlier in the morning I'd just spent over $30 sending souvenirs home and was not eager to make another trip to the post office just yet.

The rest of the stops were about the same, a five minute talk about lacquer-ware, gem cutting, ceramics, whatever, then move on to the shop. There were a LOT of factories on the tour but I called an end to it after just a few more of them. I'd done more than enough shopping at the night markets, and wasn't in the mood to spend any more money. But all in all, it was a fairly cheap tour and I got to learn a little bit about this and that.... not a bad way to spend the day.

TAG: Code Watermelon


jovaliquilts said...

Neat -- the silkworm photos are so interesting! I guess I'd never thought about the details of how this is done.

Bezzie said...

That's so cool! I love tours about "how stuff gets done."

Lady Miss Violet said...

I love that the workers in the silk factory look to be wearing beautiful silks themselves. Thanks for posting this!