February 24, 2013

BKK: The story of Thai silk

One of the places we visited in Bangkok last November was the Jim Thompson House. James Harrison Wilson Thompson was an American soldier who settled in Bangkok after World War II. He is credited for almost single-handedly reviving the silk industry in Thailand by creating an international market for it and improving the quality of the handcrafted silk. After 22 years in Thailand, in 1967, he and some friends went to the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia for a holiday; he went out for a walk and never returned. Up to this day, no one knows what happened to him.
 the Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand The Jim Thompson House, now a museum, is made up of six traditional Thai houses which were put together into a single house with a Western floor plan. The red color of the house comes from a natural preservative painted on the teak wood.
 silkworms at the Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand The silk process begins with these squirming silkworms, the larva or caterpillar stage of the domesticated Bombyx mori.
 cocoons at the Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand After eating pounds of mulberry leaves and molting several times, silkworms enter the pupa stage and wrap themselves in a cocoon made of raw silk.
 cocoons being boiled at the Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand The cocoons are boiled to make the silk easier to unravel. Of course, the heat also kills the silkworm inside the cocoon.
 raw silk being spun on a reel at the Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand The unraveled, raw silk being spun on a reel. Vegetable dyes were traditionally used to color silk, but the results were not consistent and the colors fade after many washings. Jim Thompson introduced modern, color-fast dyes and processes to Thailand in the late 1940s.
 a wooden loom at the Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand A traditional, wooden weaving loom loaded with red and white silk thread.
 the spirit house in the garden at the Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand Like all Thai houses and buildings, the Jim Thompson House also has a spirit house at a corner of the property—in the garden and overlooking the canal. The complex also has a restaurant which serves fantastic Thai dishes, and a shop with some of the loveliest silk scarves, ties, and clothes that I have ever seen and touched.

11 comments:

Barbara Farr said...

Very interesting. We went to a rug factory in Turkey in 2000 and they showed us each of the stages you outlined here. I forget how many yards of silk thread they get from th cocoon. Very interesting.

richies said...

I enjoyed learning about silk production, and the photos were great!
An Arkies Musings

George said...

Thank you for teaching us about the production of silk. The colors of the silk threads in your photographs are marvelous.

Marie said...

This was a very sad story, and also very fascinating! I loved learning about the contribution Mr. Thompson made to the silk industry. Your photos show how it's done, and I loved that! Thanks for a very informative post! And thanks for stopping in and commenting on my Mondays Mural.

Cezar and Léia said...

Thailand is a country full of charms, isn't it?
God bless you!
Cezar

Lowell said...

This is truly a fascinating post. The name sounded familiar but I don't think I'd heard of Mr. Thompson before. Beautiful house and property, intriguing story, and I enjoyed very much the lesson on the making of silk. Excellent photos, too!

Birdman said...

Many worms all together in one place can make me uncomfortable. Kinda squimish (sp?) you could say.

EG CameraGirl said...

It's a complicated process! I love the feel of silk.

Photo Cache said...

interesting.

Oakland Daily Photo said...

Thanks for the education. We sometimes get Jim Thompson items at the White Elephant Sale, which raises money for the Oakland Museum. I know they're collectible but knew nothing of the man. Happy year of the snake to you too!

Edward said...

I love how Bangkok is a mix of old and new traditions. I went there and saw many temples and old traditional architectures as well as new modern buildings.