death by boiling so we can wear silk

This post is dedicated to the silkworms at Les Chantiers Ecoles Silk Farm in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Artisans D’Angkor helps young Cambodians from poor rural areas learn traditional craft skills. They learn wood and stone carving, gilding, lacquering, silk painting and other traditional crafts.

They also learn sericulture - the ancient practice of growing silkworms and harvesting the long threads they produce by unraveling their cocoons.

The stages in the labour intensive process from hatchling to completed silk products are ...

The moths lay the eggs that hatch into caterpillars.

Silkworms eat the leaves of white mulberry trees in huge quantities.

It takes 30 to 40 days for tiny hatchlings to grow into adult caterpillars, and they increase in weight by an incredible fourteen thousand times!!!!!!!

When they are full grown they stop eating and spin their cocoons. Seven to ten days later the caterpillars will have completed their cocoons.

Next step is the process of extracting the silk. The cocoons are heated to kill the pupae. (If this were not done the pupae would turn into moths and break the thread as they emerge from the cocoon.)

Next the spinning stage: threads are unwound and reeled together, forming a single length of strong thread.

The silk threads are dyed with a range of traditional vegetable dyes.

The dyed threads are then woven into silken material of varying colours and patterns.


  1. Hello Catmint

    I have enjoyed learning so much from your blogpost today - its so interesting to read all about those little silkworms especially being able to view your photographs aswell.

  2. This is most interesting. I have heard that silk worms use to be a big business in the South of USA many many years ago. We see the silk worms hanging down from trees as if floating through the air but instead on a strand of silk. Hum, I have not seen as many this year as in years past though. I wonder why...

  3. I saw something similar in the UK years ago, though not on this scale. Absolutely fascinating. Really enjoyed this post.

  4. Dear Catmint, What an absolutely fascinating and informative posting which is also superbly illustrated. I have learnt much through reading and looking at this and have enjoyed the process enormously.

  5. oh my gosh. This was so incredibly interesting!

    I guess it's a little sad to think about heating up and killing the pupae. I don't think I knew this had to happen. I sort of thought they just spin threads like spider webs and we just take them as they spin more. duh. This was really cool to see in photos.

  6. i always wondered...thanks for sharing!

  7. Very interesting process! Thanks for sharing.

  8. Catmint, really enjoyed your informative post about silk production. Silk is a wonderful material. The colours and patterns gorgeous. I like it very much that young people are able to learn the ancient crafts.Your photos show very well the process from the moth to the silk. I remember my oldest grandson bringing his box with silk worms to feed them on the leaves of our white mulberry tree.

  9. Hi Rosie, I am so pleased you enjoyed the post.

    Hi Skeeter, I think they are not used now because it is such a labour intensive process and it would be too expensive. At least the silkworms are wild and free down your way ...

    Hi Hermes, thanks for the comment.

    Hi Edith, thanks - so pleased you found it instructive.

    Hi Wendy, it is horrendous for the poor little things. I did feel sorry for them being boiled.

    Hi Tammy, thanks for your comment and visit.

    Hi Alan, I found it a fascinating process too.

    Hi Titania, yes it does seem to be a lost art, it's great to see it being revived.

    Cheers, catmint

  10. I saw similar process for making silk carpet in turkey. Thanks for the post if I ever travel to this country would like to visit this place too.

  11. Wow, I had no idea...won't be wearing silk anylonger. Thank you.


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