Thousands of years ago, the art of making lotus silk was known, but then it was lost. However, a few small-scale industries in Myanmar, Cambodia, and, recently, Vietnam are reviving this age-old tradition.
You may be asking yourself why lotus silk is so expensive, yet people could make it before the age of technology. Of course, it’s costly because of its rarity, high demand, and the effort that goes into producing it. But above all, lotus silk is one of the world’s most lustrous and stylish fabrics.
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“Silk thread is glossy, luxurious; lotus thread is noble,” says one of the women in Phan Thi Thuan’s family industry. The family has been making silk for generations, harvesting silk from silkworms to create luxury fabrics. But the process of creating lotus silk is different, and the family only started their venture into lotus silk in 2017.
Today, the price of lotus silk is almost 10 times as much as regular silk. To understand what’s so special about lotus silk, you’ve got to appreciate how it’s made.
How is lotus silk made?
Making the much-sought natural fiber is a long, tedious process. As mentioned, it’s only done by a few experienced craftspeople worldwide.
The critical difference between silk from silkworms and lotus silk is that the latter is done by hand. A thread of lotus silk is harvested from the stem of the lotus flower. And they select each branch carefully before being cleaned and prepared to be spun. The stalk contains a small amount of thin, sticky fibers that the craftspeople roll together before drying.
Also, they have to process the lotus thread within 24 hours; otherwise, the line breaks if it completely dries. This means they have to harvest it every day.
Once they have finished extracting the lotus thread, it is still delicate. So they leave it to dry, and once it dries, they have to weigh the thread down and hand-spool it carefully.
Lotus fibers are not as long as other natural fibers like wool and cotton, so they must be spun to create a solid yarn for clothing.
The thread is then put into a traditional loom to create the much-sought, beautiful, durable lotus fabric. These small-scale industries produce about 20 scarves per month. And it takes around 9200 stems to make a single scarf.
The unique properties of lotus silk
The fabric has several unique properties that help it stand out among other fibers.
First, lotus silk is lightweight and breathable, perfect for clothing and other garments worn close to the skin. Also, its breathability makes it incredibly comfortable and relaxed during hot weather. The fabric also contains natural UV inhibitors that may help protect your skin during hot summer days.
Also, the fibers’ natural elements contain hypoallergenic and antimicrobial properties. So you’re less likely to get allergic reactions or issues with mold. The fibers can also easily absorb moisture, making them great for bedding and other clothing.
Thirdly, the fabric is solid and durable. A single thread can be delicate, but the lines are strong once woven together. You can wear it for years with the proper care. Much of its allure comes from its combination of strength and softness. And the soft, lustrous look makes it perfect for quality, stylish products.
Lastly, it is sustainable and eco-friendly. The lotus plant grows in muddy ponds and doesn’t need fertilizers or pesticides. This means they have a low environmental impact.
Can lotus silk be easily dyed?
Lotus fibers are not very porous and won’t absorb the color like other fabrics. For this reason, the final color might not be as vibrant as you would expect.
However, the fabric is excellent for all types of clothing, including blouses, jackets, dresses, blouses, and pants. You can also use them for sleepwear and lingerie.
How to get lotus silk products
Because of its scarcity and high price, you may only get lotus fabric in high-end stores or upscale boutiques. There is limited availability of lotus fabrics in the high-fashion sphere because there’s no large-scale production of lotus silk. But as mentioned, it’s this scarcity and its luster that make it so expensive and covetable.
Lotus silk is not only a beautiful eco-friendly fabric, it’s at the heart of its producers in Asia.
“The Lotus blossom holds tremendous significance in our culture for many reasons, such as purity, rebirth, and ascension,” explains Pyae, a craftsman who produces lotus silk.
In conclusion, lotus silk may be expensive, but it’s worth every penny.