H undreds of looms pro duce a great sound as thousands of silk threads are weaved
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
"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
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.
says there is no official training, people learn from their parents.
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.
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.
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
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
"Business is growing but it depends on how much we work," she
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.