28/01/2019 00:01 GMT+7 print

Hanoi artisan weaves silk from lotus

Phan Thi Thuan from My Duc district in Hanoi, is the first artisan in Vietnam who can make silk from the lotus plant.

After 40 years of working with silk, Thuan decided to try making silk from lotus two years ago after she met some scientists from the Ministry of Sciences and Technology who initiated a national-level project of producing silk from lotus plants. 

Silk made from lotus stems is softer than that from worms so it took Thuan months to adjust the loom properly. After many failures in more than one year, Thuan successfully weaved a lotus silk scarf with a distinctive scent. 

Visiting Thuan’s workshop in Phung Xa commune, we were stunned by the sophisticated and time-consuming process of weaving lotus silk which requires the meticulousness and skillfulness of the maker.

Lotus stems are now a new material used for weaving. 

Artisan Phan Thi Thuan is experienced in traditional silk weaving. She is the first silk maker to weave silk from lotus.

Lotus fiber is extracted from stems. 

Extracting fiber from 4-5 stems to make fabric for weaving. 

Extracting is time-consuming. 

Checking quality of the lotus fiber. 

Fiber ready for weaving.

Spinning and weaving require special care because the lotus fiber is so thin. 

On the weaving loom.

Carefully weaving. 

Repairing small mistakes. 

The first lotus silk scarves in Vietnam are made in Phung Xa village. 

Phan Thi Thuan is proud of her unique products. 

Using a small knife, Thuan first gently made a cut in each of the stems, which then opened to show a small amount of cellulose thread from the cuts. Using water, her skillful fingers arranged the threads, which would be used later to weave lotus "silk" fabric. The stems from mature lotus flowers offer the strongest and most beautiful thread, but if they are too old the thread is difficult to extract and cut.

It takes about ten days to extract 250g of lotus silk from about 3,000 stems, enough for weaving a scarf. 

“’Lotus silk’ is as fragile as smoke but it’s quite valuable as it takes so much labor,” Thuan said. “It’s like a gift from Mother Nature.”

“I hope designers will think about using ‘lotus silk’ in high fashion products other than just plain clothes,” she added.
Thuan hopes to expand lotus silk production to raise the value of lotus growing and create more jobs for her fellow villagers.

By Viet Cuong