My Free Silk-Weaving Workshop Tour: Artisans d’Angkor — Take 2
July 16 — Siem Reap, Cambodia
Some say the best things in life are free, while cynics say there’s no such thing as a free lunch. As cynical as I am, I am also one of the world’s greatest cheapskates, which is why I try to seize as many free (and interesting) opportunities as I can.
I found out about this tour when I dropped by Artisans d’Angkor on my first day in Siem Reap, and promised myself that I would schedule a trip as soon as I got back from the Hariharalaya Retreat Centre.
Let me break it down in a simple formula as to why this is so appealing to me:
Weaving / textiles + Free of charge = My kind of thing
Joining the tour
A free shuttle bus takes you at 9:30am (or 1:00pm) from the Artisans d’Angkor main showroom to their silk-weaving workshop maybe 20-30 minutes from the old market (I didn’t keep track of the time).
At the silk-weaving workshop, a friendly tour guide will walk you through their process of silk production to weaving to showcasing.
Learning the process
First, the guide shows us the silk worms (picture not included), and their cocoons, which make up the raw (outer layer) and fine (inner layer) silk threads.
The guide also shared that it takes 3,000 cocoons (or 3,000 silk worms — you need to kill the worm inside the cocoon to use the cocoon) to make 1 silk scarf.
Now, I’m if that new knowledge makes me averse to silk now because of my vegan tendencies (note, not state), or because this makes it so much clearer, so much real-er that that luxurious fabric is, well, worms. I’ve known that silk is derived from worms, but it’s different when you see the process.
Anyway, next, after the cocoons have been harvested and “cooked”, the thread is dyed and wound into spools.
Thread is then taken from the spools and wound around the sticks for the loom “boats” according to a specific order and color (to achieve the fabric patterns).
From there, the sticks of thread are masterfully glided across the loom, to create rolls of beautifully patterned textiles. I forgot how long it takes to do this, but I remember thinking it was a veeeery long time, and realizing why silk can be so expensive.
[With Hanne outside the weaving room, with a big grin for the free tour]
We weren’t allowed to take photos of the real showroom (which showcases a lot classier and more wearable silk garments than the first Lady Gaga-esque photo in this post), so you’ll have to visit it yourself.
I appreciate that they showed us the entire process, which was probably really meant to make us realize the value of the work and the high price it warranted. But again, being a cheapskate (and now a bit grossed out by all the worminess), I didn’t purchase anything, but it did make me think of the process and working conditions in places that produce the significantly cheaper silk scarves available in the old market.
Fair trade is not just for hipsters,
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Chantiers-Ecoles (main branch)
Stung Thmey Street
Siem Reap, Cambodia