the story of silk began more than four thousand years ago in the court of china’s first emperor. it is said that a young concubine named lei tsu, by way of experiment, has discovered the ‘finest natural textile thread known to man’.

image © designboom

the art of waving silk, first restricted to members of the imperial court spread to lower levels of chinese society and achieved widespread fame. gradually a trade route to the west emerged. a tortuous passage known as ‘silk road’wandered through hostile lands and ended thousands of miles away at market places in the middle east. for centuries only the chinese knew the secrets of silk production and the exportation of silkworms was strictly forbidden. around 140 BC silkworm eggs and and mulberry cuttings reached khotan, in present-day afghanistan, allegedly smuggled by a chinese princess who went to marry the king and found the prospect of a silkless life unbearable. from then it went to india and a century later to korea and japan; around the same time the art was moving south with chinese minority groups into present-day indo-china and thailand. since then silk weaving is an integral part of north east thailand’s countless villages.

silk making step 2: thread extraction image © designboom

the fresh and fragile cocoons are ready to be scooped into the reeling pot. each cocoon consists of many yards of tightly woven silk thread. in the cultivation of silkworms, to not damage the continuity of the thread, the cocoons are placed in boiling water to kill the chrysalis. it begins to unwind, forming an extraordinarily long thread of great strength yet as delicate as a spider’s web. a spatula removes the outside layers of the cocoon, then, having found the end of the single cocoons.

silk making step 2: thread extraction the silk thread image © designboom