On Thursday, I was treated to an overview of the silk process when visiting the “silk village” not terribly far from Hanoi. The specialty of this villagers here –doesn’t the word “villagers” sound so wonderfully quaint?”–is the weaving and dying of silk. (Just so you know, other villages around Hanoi specialize in things as different as making ceramics, carving horn and bone, and brewing snake wine.) So, given the way the craft system is split up, the “silk village” didn’t really provide an entire overview in a soup to nuts type way, since silk worm raising is done in another village, and extracting the silk from the cocoon is done in yet another. So, by the time you get to the village I visited, all the real messy work has happened. Of course, once the villagers get finished with their part of the process, the silk goes hither and yon to be used for whatever….
Anyway, here’s the earliest part of the silk process I saw. Silk thread in a rawish state:
The workshop I visited had booth a loom to use by hand, and many machine looms. Below is a woman who did hand looming. She motioned for me to try it out. It wasn’t a great start. First, I hit my head getting in the loom contraption, and then, well, it was similar to teaching someone steps to a dance when once doesn’t speak the same language, so it was a series of pointing at one leg, my arm, another leg, my other arm. While it was funny in that universal way of watching someone mess up, I’m happy to leave silk weaving to the professionals.
A woman operating one of the many machine looms is just below. With all the looms going, it’s very loud, and I expected a Vietnamese Norma Rae to emerge at any moment. [Cue to clip of Sally Field standing on a table holding sign that reads UNION….]
Like the sheets used in a player piano, silk patterns come on rolls in a series of dots.
As said above, some silk thread is dyed before weaving, and some afterwards. Below is a photo of a heap o’ silk ready to be bathed in color.
And, here we have the dyer at work. The color was a gorgeous deep blue.
In my next post, I’ll show you some of the “painting” done with silk thread. Of course, that’s in another village.