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  • Writer's pictureKaren Selk

Six Weeks in China Becomes Ten Days -BUT Now Includes: Thailand, Burma, Hong Kong and Korea

Updated: Apr 27, 2019

The first Asian Journal blog post (1986 First Silk Sojourn) was an introduction of what it was like travelling over 30 years ago. It was an adventure, complex, not doable without Lonely Planet (no internet), and many people steped up to help bewildered travellers.

During my working life, my husband and I had a silk yarn and fibre import/export business, Treenway Silks. In those days, there were really only two such businesses that concentrated solely on silk products. We imported our products from China and later included India. We supplied weavers, spinners, knitters, embroiderers and anyone else who used silk yarns or fibres. We made it our mission to have inside/out knowledge of our product. We wanted to understand all aspect of silk from the raising of the silkworm through unleashing the silk from the cocoon to make all the different qualities of yarns and fibres. This would enable us to best help our customers with any queries or problems. I am a weaver, spinner, embroiderer, knitter, sewist, and surface design worker. So I was absolutely passionate to travel and meet the silk farmers, yarn factories, and artisans working with silk.

Before most people had personal computers, we published a newsletter, which we printed on pink paper. It became affectionately known as “The Pink” by our customers. They knew exactly what it was when it arrived in their mailbox. It was chock full of information. It had sections like: Greetings, What’s New, Specials, Silk (the ins and outs of how it comes about), Treenway Treasures (a new woven project with directions) and The Asian Journal.

Our customers loved the Asian Journal and often took the time to send a letter to let us know. I thought it would be fun for those interested in travel, Asia and recent history to re-produce those Asian Journals, starting with 1987.

The Asian Journal

“My Asian journey had a double purpose. My main focus for the last five years has been weaving unique garments with silk. Another aspect of my work is teaching about weaving with silk through workshops. These were the moving forces behind my travels to this part of the world which is home for silk production. I wanted to research and study all aspect of silk from the raising, dyeing, yarn making, design sources and symbolism, weave structures and finishing.

The second exciting purpose of my trip was to research new silk yarn and fibre sources for Treenway.

If this trip would have been approached from solely a personal interest, I would not have seen and understood many of the manufacturing techniques used in the silk process. Even more importantly, I would not have received as much of a political and economic view of the role silk plays in the world. And from the other side of the coin, if I had travelled only with business in mind I wouldn’t have had the rich country experiences of sharing the back of a pick-up truck with goslings, buckets of frogs, loom parts and gentle Thai villagers who earn half of their yearly income from raising silkworms, making the cocoons into yarn and weaving beautiful ikat fabrics.

This journey started two years ago as a six-week trip to China. As time marched on and plans started to take shape many interesting opportunities arose and the trip rapidly made changes. My sister-in-law was in Thailand and easily convinced me to come and research Thai silk while in Asia. She would search out the most interesting places for us to visit, as well as act as interpreter and guide.

When my travel agent understood the purpose of our trip, she informed us we simply must hop over to Burma from Thailand, because it has some of the most intricate silk weaving in the world.

During our travels many wonderful things came our way including a very unexpected trip to Korea. While doing Treenway business in Hong Kong we met a Korean man whose brother dealt with many silk manufacturers. Arrangements were made for him to pick us up at the airport and help us with our Korean agenda.

Our six-week China trip got shuffled to include Thailand, Burma, Hong Kong, Korea, with ten days in China. Every single day was jam packed with new adventures. I look forward to sharing these adventures with you in the following newsletters."


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