We are feeling a inspiration-whelmed after attending Maryanne Moodie's weaving workshop and Belinda Evan's natural dye workshop over the last few weekends in Melbourne. We have big love for the humble yarn and it's sometimes too easy to forget to appreciate the time and patience involved in weaving a piece of fabric, especially the precious and time-consuming hand-woven work, when buying a new piece for our wardrobes. In rural Cambodia, silk weaving is the backbone of many family's livelihoods.
There are so many steps before the final fabric product is completed. Firstly the silk worms (which are actually caterpillars), are fed on mulberry leaves. The completed cocoon is then pulled from the mulberry bush and placed boiling water, which separates the silk thread of the cocoon from the caterpillar inside. In Cambodia, nothing goes to waste. After the silk is removed from the cocoons, the silkworms are eaten as a nutritious snack, providing much needed protein and fat.
During the boiling stage, the cocoons are separated (or carded) into two different types of silk yarn. The outer cocoon is raw silk and the inner cocoon is fine silk. Raw silk is bumpy and irregular whilst the fine silk yarn is much more uniform and delicate.
The yarns are then spun by hand on spinning machines, which are often made from recycled bicycle or wooden wheels, in preparation for dying. Because silk is a protein, the silk yarn just sucks up colour. Natural dyes from local leaves and flowers can produce much more vivid colours in silk compared to their natural yarn counterparts like cotton or linen.
The art form of weaving in Cambodia has not changed much over the last hundreds years. Most of the weavers still make the wooden looms themselves and can take one or more days to weave a beautiful piece of silk fabric. We always aim for hand making items because it means that each Jane Heng item will forever carry an imprint of the maker; it's the tiny imperfections of handmade that makes it beautiful and unique. Its yours, truly.