Silk and Cotton

Silk and Cotton


(Traditional way of yielding silk yarn from cocoon) In Lao, the rearing of silk worms starts with the moth, the moths do not fly and after matting, the female lays thousands of eggs and dies.  These eggs hatch within ten to twelve days, and the larvae are reared on picked mulberry leaves.

When the larvae are ready to spin, having moulted four times and approximately four weeks after hatching, their bodies turn pinkish and a bright yellow thread appears around their abdomen.  There is a short period of ten to twelve days before the moths are due to appear from these cocoons and before this happens the weavers must reel the silk so that the yarn is continuous.

This reeling process involves boiling the cocoons in a pot and lifting single filaments from about twenty cocoons at a time through a small hole in the bamboo frame which is set on the boiler.  The twisted yarn is reeled onto large spools or just simply into a basket.  The weaver uses a forked bamboo tool to hold the cocoons in the water while the silk is being unwound and passed around a wooden spool to create the twist.

Each cocoon can yield three grades of yarn: the first, darker colored yarn is thick and of poor quality by Lao standards; the next is paler and finer; while the innermost yarn is soft, fine and pale in color.  One cocoon is said to produce up to six hundred meters of silk yarn.


Cotton is grown for home-spinning all over Laos, but more so in the Northern part of Oudomxai Province and in the Vientiane Plain area.

A variety with large seeds is preferred because the seeds can be extracted by hand.  Otherwise a hand gin is used.  The cleaned cotton ball is rolled into a long cigar shape by rolling it in the palms of the hands and shaping it with a fine bamboo stick.

When enough have been prepared, spinning can commence.  This is done on hand-operated spinning wheels which stand at an angle to the floor.  The angle is designed for comfort, and the spinner, who sits on the floor, pushes her foot against the frame to keep it steady.


home-plant cotton tree.

Silk worm, cocoon and mulberry leaves.

Reel the silk.

Lao spinner in Northern Lao.

Hand-spun cotton.

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