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The story of Tabitha silk

Cambodian Silk Legend:

According to Cambodian Legend, the art of silk weaving started when a doctor returned home to find his wife spinning out silk threads from her mouth a. Astonished by what he saw, he stayed to watch her as she wove the silk threads into mosquito netting. When his wife saw that her secret was detected, she fled and killed herself. She was reborn a silkworm and multiplied. The doctor killed himself in despair and was reborn a mosquito. This is the reason silkworm’s must always be protected from mosquitoes with netting when they are fed the leaves of mulberry bushes.
Tabitha Cottage Industry

In poor areas there are people unable to leave home to work. There are widows who cannot leave their children alone; women in families where the tradition does not allow them to leave home, the weak or abandoned elderly; or those suffering from some type of physical handicap that does not allow them to move about freely. An entire community may suffer from an economic barrier to improving their incomes.

The purpose of cottage industry (CI) is to provide a source of supplemental income through the development and marketing of products that use the hand skills of these people and that will allow them to meet their home life needs.

The people themselves decide how many pieces they would like to make and how much income they would like to earn. For many it becomes their primary source of income. It transforms lives, allowing people to eat three meals a day, put their children in school, meet some of their medical costs, and, eventually to rebuild their homes, get clean water and build toilets. CI also encourages saving programs to allow families to send their children to school. A medical benevolence system is also set up.

Silk production through Cottage Industry

In days gone by you could identify the silk weaving areas of Cambodia by the distinctive Mulberry trees present in the village. These trees provided food for the silkworms, from which the silk was cultivated. Today, Tabitha weavers must import silk thread from Vietnam and China. The raising of mulberry trees and the art of silk cultivation has almost been lost. However, the old traditions of dyeing and weaving silk have survived the test of time.

All Tabitha silk is hand-dyed using natural or chemical dyes

·        The dyed silk thread is spun by hand onto bobbins and spools of differering sizes ready for the setting up of the loom. This task is usually carried out underneath the village houses and often all members of the family are involved in some way

·        The silk thread is finally woven into plain or patterned silks. It takes one day to weave 1 metre of plain coloured silk. Patterned silks take longer depending on the complexity of the pattern

·        Weaving is only carried out by the most experienced. It is a skill that is passed from generation to generation – grandmothers teach mothers and mothers teach daughters the art of weaving

Benefits to weavers

Tabitha supports these weavers by buying the finished bolts of silk directly from local producers. Sewers and seamstresses take the silk to produce the silk products sold to the public. Tabitha helps to re-establish the silk-weaving industry in Cambodia.

Through Tabitha’s savings program, families have gained the ability to buy the raw materials they need to start weaving silk again. This enables participants to progressively change their standard of living.

In the Ottawa region, Tabitha silk can be purchased at the following locations:

Lisbeth Mousseau

(visits by appointment only)

Phone: 613 226 8427     

Wool-Tyme, 190 Colonnade Road, S. Ottawa

Phone: 613 225 9665

YMCA-YWCA: Metro Central Y
180 Argyle Avenue, Ottawa