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 fibre is only
extracted by a few skilled craftspeople 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. So just how is
it made, and what makes it so expensive?
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 craftspeople 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. So just how
is it made, and what makes it so expensive? Phan Thi Thuan's family have
been making silk for generations, growing and harvesting the threads from
silkworms themselves to create luxury garments. But making lotus silk is
different. 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
version is that every single strand of lotus silk must be extracted by hand.
Narrator: Each thread of lotus silk starts with the stem of the lotus flower.
The lotus is 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.
Narrator: 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. 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. 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.
These luxurious traits have made it popular with tourists searching for rare
souvenirs. It's also recently been picked up by international fashion brands
searching for new luxury fiber. But its scale has been limited, as there are
still few trained in the making of these silk threads. But despite the work
involved, Phan Thi Thuan is hoping that this skill could one day grow to
become a larger industry.
1. What is the one of the rarest fabrics in the world?
2. Why are they so expensive? How much a scarf would cost?
3. Detail how are the lotus fabrics are made?