by Danny Harrington, Hong Kong

Thai Silk is considered one of the world?s finest fabrics with a heritage thought to stretch back more than 3000 years. Not only does it come in a mind-dazzling array of colours and patterns, but it cannot be duplicated or copied to any degree of comparison. A unique combination of processes take the silk through the stages of fibre-making, dyeing and weaving to land up with fabrics that sit comfortably from traditional designs to contemporary fashion at home on any modern day catwalk.

Thai Silk starts off as the cocoon of a small silkworm. The silkworms hatch from the eggs of silk moths and spend a year feeding on leaves
of mulberry before they cocoon themselves. The cocoons are then boiled to separate out the silk thread which can be over 1000 metres per cocoon. At this stage the thread is too thin and so they are reeled together to produce a spindle of useable raw silk fibre.

Next the silk is soaked in hot water and bleached. This is to remove the natural colours [usually a gold or green] ready for dyeing. After the new colour has attached, the silk is washed and dried and then it can be woven on the traditional hand operated loom.

Resulting from this careful and traditional process are fabrics of the highest quality. Thai silks display a wonderful duality to their colour, one for the warp and one for the weft, so that they subtly change their hues as they move under the light. If you are ever unsure whether you are looking at real silk or a factory-made fake, check that colour change. Also, if the material is too uniform in colour and texture it is probably artificial. Finally, under a flame, Thai silk smells of burning hair ? it is natural after all. Fake fabrics smell of plastic.