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Silk sarong weaving supports island folk

Silk sarong weaving supports island folk

H undreds of looms pro duce a great sound as thousands of silk threads are weaved

into sarongs.

The "silk villages" of Kbal Khos and Lvai lie in the center

of Mekong Island in the Muk Kompol district of Kandal province, about 15 km

north west of Phnom Penh.

The head of Lvai village explained that 80

percent of the 3,000 families in both villages worked in silk

production.

"I am proud that our people have been doing this for a long

time," said Kim Len Hong. "Even if they only make enough money to

live."

Mekong Island has no agriculture and so silk has become the main

trade for most people.

The beautiful coastline is enough to attract

tourists but they are also interested in seeing the weavers at work.

Kim

says there is no official training, people learn from their parents.

It

is mainly women who make the silk. It is sold to traders who take it to markets

in Phnom Penh and throughout the country.

Traders will sometimes buy all

the silk produced at one time by the villages and will often import raw silk

thread from Vietnam and from other parts of the country.

Cambodian

sarongs have a reputation for good quality and are said to be better than ones

from Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.

Price depends on quality and average

between $20-30 per piece. But special ones can fetch up to $600.

A

traditional style of silk is the jewel sarong woven with thread dyed in a rich

creation of natural colors such as blue, green, violet, red and gold, usually

made from plants.

The glowing effect comes from the dyeing methods. Each

color is added in accordance with the pattern of the sarong.

The silk is

remounted each time in a process which may be repeated up to five times

depending on the sarong's design.

The loom is then strung lengthwise with

a base color silk and the dyed threads are woven across.

One weaver, Sok

Mach, said she and her family started their small scale business in 1980. She

was taught to weave as a child.

"There is no teaching of the techniques

or training in the skill by others," she said.

"But every youngster

knows how to do it and they learn difficult patterns from their mothers and

elders."

Sok explained the makers have to be patient and careful with the

silk otherwise it was easy to make "trouble" for yourself.

Sok earns only

two to three chis of gold ($90-130) for three to four months

work.

"Business is growing but it depends on how much we work," she

said.

Sarongs are produced in sets consisting of 30 to 60 pieces ranging

in size from 90cm to 1.7m.

Some weavers are hired directly by traders

from markets who do not have enough money to set up their own businesses.

Traders provide raw material and some equipment. Sok complained the weavers did

not make much profit and were always working hard.

She said the market

sellers were indifferent to the weavers and made an easy profit.

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