We are in a assumption that silk can only be obtained from silkworms or any other insects. But people might have not much heard about the silk that can be extracted from plants like lotus that is from stem fibres. Its really amazing and interesting that women who are fond of flowers will simultaneously gets more attracted to this silk which can be modified in to beautiful garments.

A pretty woven lotus silk garments by Phan Thi Thuan (Vietnam woman)

Lotus silk is one of the rarest fabrics in the world, produced only in small scale across Cambodia, Myanmar, and, more recently, Vietnam. This natural fiber is only extracted by a few skilled crafts people across the world. But making this silk isn’t easy. Extracting enough lotus silk for one scarf can take two months, and the final product can cost 10 times as much as regular silk.

Silk usually comes from silkworms. They’re kept on wide trays and need to be fed almost 24 hours a day with mulberry leaves. The caterpillars delicately spin threads to create their cocoons,and it can take hundreds of silkworms to make a kilo of silk. But while the insects require careful looking after, they do most of the hard work themselves. The key difference between the bright yellow silk and the paler lotus silk is that every single strand of lotus silk must be extracted by hand. Each thread of lotus silk starts with the stem of the lotus flower.

Preparation of lotus silk

The lotus is even Vietnam’s national flower and a plant that’s grown across the country. While this fabric has been made for years in Myanmar, Phan Thi Thuan only started experimenting with this fiber in 2017. Once the stem is selected and picked by hand, the silk inside can be extracted. Each stem contains a minuscule amount of thin, sticky fibers, which must be rolled together and dried.

Extracting lotus threads and woven by hands

The threads need to be processed within 24 hours while they’re still wet otherwise, they’ll break. And so harvesting has to be done each day. And the lotus plants are only available to harvest between April and October. Once you’ve gone through the hard work of extracting these fibers, they’re incredibly delicate, too. Narrator: Once dry, these threads are carefully weighed down and delicately hand-spooled. Then they’re put into the loom.

These fibers are fragile, but once woven, can be as durable as traditional silk. Phan has a team of 20 workers creating these fibers each day, allowing them to produce 10 to 20 scarves each month. A skillful worker can only make lotus thread for about 200 to 250 stems in a day. But when a 25-centimeter scarf can sell for just over $200, the hard work is worth it. The final product is unlike any other fiber. It’s soft like silk, breathable like linen, and slightly elastic.

Silkworm silk Vs Lotus silk
  1. Silk worm silk is obtained from cocoon of silk worms where as lotus silk is obtained from stem fibres of lotus.
  2. Silk thread is stiffer, can be woven by machine but lotus thread is too fragile , so it is woven by hand and needs more effort
  3. Silk worms use their glue glands to draw silk thread from their intestines where as lotus thread is soft and a bit stretchy.
  4. Silk thread is glossy, luxurious where as lotus thread is noble, pale yellow in color

Most of the people in Vietnam grows lotus in their ponds for flowers and the seeds but our Phan Thi Thuan had a innovative idea of extracting lotus thread from the base of the stem .This kind of new ideas will become a portal for agriculture transformation. She teaches to elders, farmers, and also for students in their summer break, every year she teaches 100 children who has passion and creativity as she strongly believes that the future generation will be the ones who can develop the lotus silk industry. So by this, It’s clear that any fluids that comes from any part of plant will create miraculous products. People of Vietnam experiencing the most expensive silk garments hope we can also try this in coming years and extract the silk with different easy methods.

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