1. 2-Ply or 3-Ply or more? The ply of the silk cloth or textile translates into the weight and thickness of the fabric. Clothing fabric is often 2-ply, while fabric used to make pillowcases or soft furnishings can be 3-ply and upwards. Silk fabric is durable, so if you are not going to lay on it or but lots of pressure on it, you can also use 2-ply for soft furnishings such as duvet covers, shams, table settings, etc.
Khmer silk traditionally is woven in 3-ply.
Silk organza is
hand woven in Cambodia. It is the lightest weight silk and see-through or transparent. Often it is used for shear wall or window coverings, and beautiful shear clothing.
3. Jaquard This fabric, although well-known from French and Italian designs, is mostly produced on machines today. However, in Cambodia, it is
hand woven using complex multi-levels of peddles on the loom to produce a textured, multi-dimensional, multi-patterned luxurious cloth that is
4. Gold and Silver Lame Cloth with golden or silver threads woven in are more valuable as the threads are costly. Traditionally, these textiles are made for religious and traditional costumes for weddings, ceremonies, etc. In the past, mostly the Royal family and the Royal Court used these highly priced cloths.
5. Khmer names “Pah muong”, “Hol”, “La bouk”, etc. Khmer names for the type of silk pieces is not like European names for the type of textile. The Khmer names actually indicates
both the type of weaving and design and the traditional
use of the cloth. Like “Pah muong” is 100% plain colors silk, traditionally 3-ply and used for a skirt or pantaloons”. “Hol” is the ikat and tie-dyed patterned cloth and is used traditionally only as a traditional skirt for daytime ceremonies. “Pa muong” can be sewn into modern dresses for evening, as in the 1960’s, but “hol” is mostly for going to “wat” or temple. If the plain silk skirt is mixed with cotton, it is never called “Pa muong”, since it is
not silk; it is called “sung”. “La bouk” is a jacquard weave and with patterns, and worn as a skirt. “Pidan” is made like “hol”,
because its patterns are always depicting religious scenes and in modern times, depicting village life or conceptualized religious interpretations, ‘pidan’ is a wall hanging. Older generations of Khmers with real understanding of the weaving techniques and patterns, esteem to use the textiles properly to respect it’s high value. It was rare in the past to see a blouse made from a “pidan” cloth, although it is fashionable today.
CHARACTERISTICS OF QUALITY
Tightness of weaving
Expert weaving always comes through in the tightness of the weaving according to the type of cloth. Usually, tight weaving will produce a very soft cloth that is at the same time durable and strong.
2. Weight or density of the fabric
This also relates to the tightness of the weaving, but also to the thickness of the cloth. In each category or type of cloth, whether it is 2-ply or 3-ply or 11-ply (such as a blanket weave), the heaviness and density indicates the tightness of the weave and the amount of silk used to per square inch or other surface measurements.
3. Design and color
It is always the colors and designs which is immediately recognized, next to the “feel” of the silk textile or the tightness and weight of the silk pieces, that is valued. The more colors and complicated the design, the more value.
4. Color fast
should not run together when wet. (Reds, blues being the most difficult.)
Better dyes and dyeing techniques are currently being used in Cambodia; the
best synthetic dye is azo-free and is locals call it “german dye”. Natural dyes can also be color fast if dyed by an master weaver who knows the ancient traditions of color fasting with natural materials.
5. Mixed or 100% silk
For some modern use, to add stretch or to make it more economical,
cotton or sythetic fibres can be added to silk thread to make a fabric or
This makes good sense for economical low costs for large projects, however,
traditional Khmer silk pieces are never mixed. If they are mixed it is not
(in Khmer meaning silk or silk cloth), but it is called
“sung”, meaning a cloth that is made from silk and another fibre or entirely from non-silk). If you burn the filament strands at the edges of the cloth, it will shrivel like plastic. If you burn silk thread, it burns cleanly without shriveling and leaves no residue and no synthetic smell.
6. Traditional fabrics most valued
Traditional and modern artistically designed “ikat” or
“hol”, which are woven from individually dyed and multiple spools to produce intricate patters are most valuable. Add that the silk thread is Khmer “golden” silk grown in Cambodia, and natural dyes made from plants, insect resins, bark, and spices, these hand made “hols” are one-of-a-kind.
7. Hand woven
The benefits of an expert touch produces the mot “high-end” textiles that has a quality of “liveliness”, luster and complexity that compliments the luxury of silk. Still affordable in Cambodia, Cambodians value
hand woven silk above all other fabrics for special uses in traditional clothing and interior decorations. All of Khmer silk is hand woven in Cambodia.
Uses for Khmer Silk Textiles
Silk is a natural fibre and in Cambodia, it is hand woven on traditional wooden looms. Silk textiles is durable and long lasting, some in Cambodia date back over a hundred years. However, most of the precious old pieces have found their way to museums and collectors outside of Cambodia. A few samples dated back over a hundred years have been recently discovered in the basement of the National Museum in Phnom Penh, thought to have been destroyed by years of neglect during war and a flood that devastated the collection.