© 2015 by Belinda Woodhouse

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Setting Fire to Silk

December 1, 2018

If you picked up the most beautiful silk you'd ever seen, would you set fire to it if the shop owner told you to? 

 

Unable to believe my ears, my vision filled with beauty, the realisation hit of what I had just heard. Managing to squeak out a little 'excuse me?'.  Breathlessly I waited for his reply. 

 

Looking into my face with my eyes as wide as saucers in shock, he simply smiled and handed me a lighter.

 

'Not all of it.. just a thread.' 

 

Okay, I started to breathe again and listened as he shared an old silk merchants trick. How to tell an authentic silk from an imposter made of any other material. 

 

Yes, that's right, you set fire to it. You gently pull out one thread from the bottom and set it alight. As any good silk merchant will tell you, they all have a lighter on hand.

 

Looking down into my lap, my feet covered in golds and silvers, turquoise, rose and ruby silks I still couldn't believe what he was saying.

 

A gold and rose silk shimmered down softly landing on me as he threw it on my lap and simply said 'don't be afraid, go ahead, you have my blessing'.

 

Visions of me dragging people out of a burning silk shop in Varanasi, India is NOT how I saw this day going in the holy city when I woke up that morning. 

 

No, I had been looking forward to this for a very long time, for years in fact. I mean I love pashminas and scarves and silks and to finally be in India surrounded and covered in them I was in seventh heaven. Now this lunatic was telling me to set them on fire! Sheesh. 

 

Alright, taking a deep breath, I sparked the lighter and stared into the flame. I can do this. Surely I won't set the whole place ablaze... right?

 

No, surely not. Looking at his smiling face, he nodded this head and holding my breath, I set fire to silk. 

 

It was one of the most crazy, heart-pounding two seconds of my life that felt like an eternity. 

 

And no, I didn't burn down the shop and have to run out fireman carrying my friends, because I learnt that day that silk burns cold. I know it sounds fantastic and unreal but it is true. Silk burns cold. 

 

When you blow it out, there is only ash and you can touch the fabric straight away without burning your finger tips. It's cool to the touch and will not burn you. 

 

If it is a polyester blend, fake or knock off made of any other fabric, then it kind of melts a little, burns hotter and you will burn your fingertips when you touch the freshly blown out end. So...

 

Silk burns cold. 

 

What a marvel. Now my heart was back to normal, I was even more in love with silks than I thought possible and felt like I could shop like a pro. 

 

A little snicker and giggle caught my attention and looking up there was Shakti, with silver and pastel blues and pinks wrapped around his head laughing at me. 

 

"ha ha ha you should have seen your face!"  he beamed. There was a round of laughter from all and I couldn't help but join in because I'm sure I looked terrified thirty seconds earlier. 

 

So, my little travel baggers, if you ever want to tell an authentic silk when you are in a marketplace or bizarre anywhere in the world, not just India, set fire to it. Trust me, that one teeny tiny thread will change you life... and the price drastically!

 

 

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