IT ALL STARTS WITH SOME GREEDY LITTLE BASTARDS

On the creation of my beautiful Lao silk carpet – Part 1

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It will take 20.000 silk worms to produce the yarn for my carpet.

Here is the first update on a nice little project, I just started with Lao Magic Carpet.

I have ordered a hand made silk carpet, and the entire process will take approximately six months.  I will follow the project and visit from time to time to photo/document the creation of this marvelous symbiosis of Lao traditional design and the 5.000 year old tradition of handicraft in Turkmenistan.

My carpet is also a love story – between Lao Magic Carpet owners Lani and her husband Ismit, who came to Laos from Turkmenistan more than 20 years ago. Ismit brought the proud handicraft traditions from his homeland. Lani contributed with the beauty of Lao design. Together they created Lao Magic Carpet, which is also a social enterprise, offering training and employment for disabled Lao youngsters.

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The silk worms will only eat the leaves. The mulberries are used for marmelade and tea.

Of course, the story of my carpet begins with the silk worms.  Greedy little bastards, they are, and ugly too, if you ask me!

Lani has taken over a former government research center and created her own silk farm in Hatxayfong district an hour’s drive down the dirt roads from Vientiane Capital.

The research center was established in the 1960’ies with Japanese development assistance as part of the effort to make Lao farmers abandon the growing of opium poppies in favor of other cash crops.

With expert assistance, Lani is now developing her own production of silk, based on Lao silk worms.

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Dr. Souphanthong Vilaysak has worked with silk worm development his entire career.

Dr. Souphanthong Vilaysak got his education with Japanese assistance more than 30 years ago, and he has devoted his entire career to the development of the worms – which are the basis of  high quality silk.

“The worms are greedy and extremely sensitive. They will only eat mulberry leaves of the finest quality, and they eat an enormous amount during their short life. When the worms are small, they can only eat the fine and soft top leaves of the mulberry tree, because their teeth are not yet developed,” Dr. Souphantong explains to me.

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Lani is plucking mulberries for me. She says that they will be good for my health, supporting a proper sugar balance in the body.

I ask Lani to make a quick calculation, of what it will take to produce the yarn for my carpet. She gets busy on her smart phone calculator. The numbers are staggering: It will take about 100.000 worms to produce the 15-16 kilos of yarn, needed for my carpet. To do so the greedy little bastards will consume 1.500 kilos of mulberry leaves!

“You have to be very careful with the worms in the process. It is very easy to harm them. Just a perfumed hand is enough to kill them.”

Stay tuned for chapter 2, once the yarn is ready for dyeing. 

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The small cocoons are heated up to extract the yarn. Each cocoon contains up to 120 meters.

 

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