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What makes lotus silk the rarest fiber in the world?

Lotus silk, a natural flower fiber, is a rare and highly exclusive fiber. This natural flower fiber is only extracted by a few expert craftspeople across the world. But making this silk isn’t easy. Extracting enough lotus silk for one scarf can take two months or more than that. The final product of Lotus silk can cost 10 times as much as regular silk.

Fabric produced from lotus silk is found only on small scale across Cambodia, Myanmar, and more recently in Vietnam. The lotus is Vietnam’s national flower and a plant that’s grown across the country.

rare-lotus-silk-fiber
Figure 1: Lotus fiber extraction. Courtesy: Collected

The silk thread comes from the stem of a lotus flower. Therefore this fiber is 100% animal cruelty-free. These rare textiles are woven in Cambodia in workshops whose art dates back more than 5000 years.

In Cambodia, weaving is an exclusive skill mainly reserved for women. With infinite patience, these women begin a delicate manual procedure to transform the fiber into a silk thread that can be woven. Cambodian seamstresses work with the silk in a workshop, bringing the greatest attention to the quality of their clothes.

History

Lotus flowers are sacred to Hindus and Buddhists. They symbolize the mind, the soul, enlightenment and purification of the body. Mythology has it that the origins of lotus root silk lie in one Myanmar woman’s devotion to their faith.

Phan Thi Thuan’s family of Myanmar has been making silk for generations, growing and harvesting the threads from silkworms themselves to create luxury garments. But making lotus silk is different, which usually comes from silkworms. But Lotus silk comes from flower fiber it doesn’t depend on any kind of worm, it is completely handmade.

lotus-silk-fiber
Figure 2: Lotus flower.

The key difference between the bright yellow silk and the paler lotus version is that every single strand of natural lotus silk must be extracted by hand. Every thread of lotus silk starts with the stem of the lotus flower.

While this fabric has been made for years in Myanmar by using Lotus flower, Phan Thi Thuan’s family only started experimenting with this fiber in 2017.

Process

Once the Lotus stem is selected and picked by hand, the silk inside of the flower can be extracted. One stem contains a minuscule amount of thin, sticky fibers, which must be rolled together and dried also. The threads need to be processed within 24 hours while stems fiber are wet.

In another way, these fibers will breakdown. The lotus plants are only available to harvest between April and October. Once they’ve gone through the hard work of extracting these fibers, they’re incredibly subtle too. Once dry, these yarns are carefully weighed down and delicately hand-reeled. Then yarns are put into the loom.

These natural fibers are breakable, but once it becomes woven, it may be as viable as traditional silk.

Phan Thi Thuan’s has a team of 20 workers who creating and make ready these fibers each day, allowing them to produce 10 to 20 scarves per month. But when it is about 25-centimeter scarf can sell for just over $200, the hard work is completely worth it.

The final product is completely different from any other fiber and fabric. It is so soft like silk, breathable like linen, and slightly like vivid.

Some instructions for lotus silk

This lotus fabric will not need a lot of washing. If anyone would like to wash their Lotus scarf though, they have to consider the following instructions:

  • Use only a drop of very mild soap;
  • Do not leave your scarf soaking;
  •  do not wring out or twist the scarf;
  • Leave the scarf to dry in a flat position;
  • Avoid direct sunlight when drying;
  • Do not use a tumble dryer;
  • Use an iron-on silk program and iron the scarf when still moist.

Conclusion

Some luxurious features 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 and also uncommon like lotus fabric. But the scale of it has been limited, as there are still few trained in the making of these silk threads or yarn. But despite the work involved, Phan Thi Thuan is wishing that this natural fabric from lotus fabric become a larger industry one day.

If anyone has any feedback or input regarding the published news, please contact: info@textiletoday.com.bd

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