An Eri Silk Cocoon Sheet Holder We Had Never Seen Before

A Surprise For Us

As players in the area of Eri Silk, and that too working at the grassroots level, we would have thought the Muezart team would have seen all the different tools the Eri silk spinners and weavers use. But no! Very recently we were surprised to see something we had never seen before. We learnt something new.

Here is the story behind it.

Muezart Studio Has Visitors - Eri Silkworm Rearers

Muezart studio often get visitors from remote corners of Ri Bhoi district – the home of Eri silkworm rearers. The visitors are mostly lady farmers who are exploring ways to better their livelihood by rearing silkworms. They come to meet the Muezart team seeking information or wanting to get more Eri silkworms or for some other support.

Let us take you to our studio to be a fly on the wall and watch one such visit.

Kong Bindas (extreme right) and her friends

Kong Bindas, her friends and team Muezart

It was early March 2019. It was still nippy in Shillong when Kong Bindas and her friend farmers from Mawlong village dropped in at our studio. Some of them where chewing Kwai*. All of them had Jainsem wrapped around them. Jainsem is a traditional Khasi outer layer of clothing for women. A simple piece of cloth wrapped around, and two corners clipped delicately on their right shoulder, a little like a Toga.

With a smile on their faces they settled down to talk to the Muezart team. Within a few minutes one of them pulled out something we have never seen before – see the image below

cocoon sheet holder - aka 'cocoon lollipop'

What Is This Strange Looking Thing?

It looked like a fluffy lollipop. We could see that it held silk fiber.

What is that” asked Hep, a Muezart maker who is forever curious.

”Phri" said Kong Bindas.

Though we had been in the field visiting silkworm rearers for a while now, we had not heard of Phri. Strange but true. It was because Phri is used only in a small region of RiBhoi .

We found out soon that it was a very different and a smart way to transport cocoon sheets.

You are wondering what are cocoon sheets? Scroll down to know more.

What Is Phri Used For?

How come you stack the degummed cocoon sheets on a stick?” asked Khraw

“we like to take the cocoon sheets and our spindle wherever we go. We like to spin when we get the time. What better way than to wrap them around a stick in a way that is easy for us to pull out each layer”,

said Kong "Iaineh"

We wanted to know how they get the basic shape of Phri. The mini pagoda like shape.

Here is how they get the conical, pagoda like shape.

Placing the wet cocoon sheets on a bamboo stick

The complete cocoon lollipop being put out to dry

Kong Molina demonstrates the making of the cocoon lollipop

The cocoon sheets are load on the holder after rinsing when they are still wet. Then the cocoon lollipop is kept outside to dry for 2-3 days.

Did you know? Each Phri (or Cocoon sheet holder) has up to 50 layers of cocoon sheets? Which means silk fiber from 50 Eri silk cocoons! Each cocoon sheet can be spun into Eri silk yarn of at least 1.22 yards.

We understood from Kong Iaineh that the other use of carrying the cocoon sheets around a stick is that they can pass it to a friend or neighbour to spin. Easy to carry around and distribute. Ingenious is it not?

The cocoon sheets are very delicate. Stacking them in this way maintains the lustre of the silk and makes it easy for the women to take out a sheet at a time and spin.

We ended up referring to Phri as Cocoon Lollipop.

Isn't the cocoon lollipop interesting? It is such a simple innovation which is so useful for them.

Kong Bindas and her friends had come to get some information from Muezart, and we ended up learning something from them too. It was one more energizing day at Muezart.

Here is a video clip of the visit of Kong Bindas to Muezart. You will see them spin yarn from these silk sheets using a drop spindle. Look and enjoy the soothing sight of silk fiber being spun into yarn.

Silk spinning from cocoons

If you are new to Eri Silk and are wondering about some of the terms in this post, then here you go:

What Are Silk Cocoons?

In very simple terms - silkworms eat leaves (depending on the variety of silkworm, the leaves they eat differ) – become fat caterpillars, which then spin a hollow, oval shaped cocoon around themselves. They hibernate in these cocoons till they become moths. These cocoons are made of silk fiber. From silkworms, to getting a cocoon it takes around 40 days. Know more

What Are Silk Sheets?

The silk cocoons are harvested and degummed by boiling them in soapy water. Eri silk Cocoons are harvested after the moths fly out, while Mulberry silk cocoons are harvested with the moths in them.

The degummed cocoons are flattened and stretched to form what are called silk sheets. Silk sheets are also referred to as silk hankies.

If you have any other questions write to us or explore our website.

1 comment

  • Cathe

    The Phri is very interesting. It reminds me of the pole “distaff” used for spinning flax into linen. Some Europeans also use a distaff for other fibers such as wool.

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