This is what I had been so anxious to share to everyone I know and I don't know. It was a grand experience for me. Whenever "195 USD" pops up in my mind, I just remember about this experience, and I can call it worthwhile.
Still on the trip to central highlands organized by Groovy Gecko Tours, we visited a silk factory in which I believe was Ta Nung, West of Dalat.
Actually these worms aren't the ones in silk factory I'm talking about now. I took this pictures hours later at a village house. I'm including this picture here to make my post as informative as possible.
When the cocoons have wrapped themselves each into a cocoon, the cocoon are placed one by one in bamboo nets like this.
The first picture shows how fully grown cocoons look like. These cocoons are stored on layers of bamboo trays. Each has bamboo tray has a number marked on it, like the number "19" on this tray. This is to identify which cocoons were produced first.
From left to right, top to bottom, the cocoons are boiled into hot water in order to make the cocoons break apart, said Tin, our guide. But I searched Wikipedia and got a more distinctive explanation:
If the animal is allowed to survive after spinning its cocoon and through the pupa phase of its life cycle, it will release proteolytic enzymes to make a hole in the cocoon so that it can emerge as a moth. These enzymes are destructive to the silk and can cause the silk fibers to break down from over a mile in length to segments of random length, and ruins the silk threads. To prevent this, silkworm cocoons are boiled. The heat kills the silkworms and the water makes the cocoons easier to unravel.
You need a scissor to divide the cocoons, because they are entangled to one another with their soft silk thread.
Long chopsticks are used to stir the cocoons and also to separate the pupa from the cocoons.
From left to right, bottom to top, the boiled cocoons are dipped into a long water tank of cold water. Remaining pupa are separated carefully.
Each thread of a cocoon is attached to a small spinning wheel ball which is connected to a big spinning wheel on top, like the picture on the right.
Tin, explained that a thread of silk is very, very thin, but very, very strong. He took a thread in his hand and tried to snatched it, but it didn't tear apart.
In the picture on the right, can you see a super tiny line connected from the huge spinning wheel on top to the little wheel ball below?
Tin also said that one cocoon can produce a thread up to 1 kilometers long.
Next, the reels of silk threads are rolled in high speed in order to dry them.
Before ready for weaving, the reels of dry silk thread are spun into spools of thread.
These are not braille scripts. These are patrons to produce the paterns on the silk fabrics.
It's actually similar to ancient printing machines. The cards of patrons are bound to one another, placed above the machine, and rolls continuously horizontally. Thousands of threads stretch down.
A worker moves a long horizontal bar back and forth, just like in the hand weaving process. On the bottom part of the picture on bottom right you can see the pattern of the fabric.
In case need of color, the fabric will be dyed in boiling dye water like this.
Final stage before sale is to dry the fabric under the sun. Can you believe that this actually came out from a worm?
There is another kind of cocoon called double cocoon. The cocoon consists of two worms. Maybe the worm couldn't bear the thought of living in a cocoon by itself. So it asked a friend to stay together.
Silk thread from double cocoons are thicker and not as smooth, but much stronger. Silk fabrics from double cocoon are used to make bags, purses, cases, etc.
The process of double cocoon silk weaving is simpler. Boiling, spinning, drying, are done at the same spot. The fabric result is as seen on the picture on bottom right. It's rough, not pure white, and not silky.
Through my own personal experience, silk scarfs, although looking thin, are surprisingly warm when I wrap it around my neck and shoulder. It's warmer than other fabrics that look thicker.
In conclusion to all this, how ingenious my ancestors were!