The scarves in Thailand and Lao are stunning. They are handmade in villages everywhere, and are impossible to ignore as a memorable souvenir. You can find both cotton and silk scarves, all meticulously woven on ancient looms - no machine-crafted products here. We had the opportunity to visit several weaving villages where the women were hard at work at their craft. We even got to see the life cycle of the silkworm, shown below. The amount of work that goes into producing one single scarf is astounding - from growing the cotton or raising the worms for silk; making and dying the thread; weaving the finished products... I was humbled by the craftsmanship of it all and thrilled to bring home several to share.
The cocoon is constructed from one continuous strand of silk, nearly a mile long. If the silkworm were allowed to mature and break through the cocoon, the silk would be rendered useless for commercial purposes. So the encased insect is plunged into boiling water (above) to kill the inhabitant and dissolve the glue holding the cocoon together. The end of the silk is then located and the cocoon unwound onto a spindle to be made into thread (below). Then, in true fashion of not letting any protein source go to waste in this part of the world, they eat the plump, boiled larvae.