About Thai Silk
History of silk
Silk cloth is one of the most valued and sought-after fabrics on the planet. Despite this the origins about the making of this most exquisite material remains veiled in mystery and myth. The use of silk originated in ancient China where the practice of weaving silk started about 2,640 BCE. Chinese merchants traded silk and provided the know-how to different regions throughout Asia. Historical findings indicate that archaeologists found the first fibres of Thai silk to be over 3,000 years old in the ruins of Baan Chiang, Thailand. This place is considered to be Southeast Asia's oldest civilization.
The production of Thai silk begins by harvesting the silk from the Bombyx mori, a small silk worm that is born from the eggs of a silk moth. In their first year, these worms consume the leaves from mulberry trees then they construct a cocoon from their spittle. In its pure cocoon form, silk is lumpy and irregular. Thai weavers take the completed cocoons from the mulbery bush and then soak them in a pot of boiling water to separate the silk threads from the caterpillar inside. The Bombyx mori often produces silk thread in various colours, from light gold to light green, with lengths averaging 1000 metres per cocoon.
A single thread filament is far too thin to use alone so Thai people combine multiple threads to produce a thicker, weavable fibre. It is acheived by hand-reeling the threads onto a wooden spindle to make a uniform strand of raw silk. The process is hard work and tedious taking nearly 40 hours to produce half a kilogram of Thai silk. Modern manufacturers use a reeling machine for this job, but even today the majority of silk thread is still hand-reeled. Hand-reeling produces three grades of silk being two fine grades that are ideal for lightweight fabrics and a thick grade for heavier cloth.
The silk yarn is then soaked in hot water with hydrogen peroxide bleach to remove the natural yellow colouring of the yarn. After washing and drying, the silk is then woven into fabric using traditional hand operated looms. As traditional Thai silk is hand woven, every silk cloth is somewhat unique and cannot be duplicated by commercial machines. In stark contrast, artificial silk is machine woven, making every part of the fabric identical with the same colour. Thai silk has a unique lustre, with a sheen created from two unique blends, with one colour for the warp and another for the weft. The colour alters as you hold the fabric at different angles against light.
Real silk smells the same as human hair when it is burned and is good proof of the natural fibre from the silk worm. If you take away the flame Thai silk stops burning immediatly. Artificial silk melts and smells like plastic when burned.
Thai silk quality
To help identify genuine Thai silk easily, Thailand's Agriculture Ministry uses a peacock emblem to authenticate the product and protect it from imitations. The peacock emblem is a guarantee of quality and is in four different colours based on specific silk types and production methods.
Gold Peacock - Indicates the premium Royal Thai Silk, which is a produced from the native Thai silkworm breeds and uses traditional hand-made production methods.
Silver Peacock - Indicates classic Thai Silk, derived from certain silkworm breeds and using hand-made production techniques.
Blue Peacock - Indicates a Thai product made of pure silk threads but with no specific production method and allowing chemical dyes.
Green Peacock - Indicates a product of Thai silk blended with other fibres and with no specific production method.