The Queen of Textiles

Silk is acclaimed as the queen of textiles. During our China trip, we had a chance to visit a silk factory. There, our tour guide walked us through the delicate process of making silk and told its long and interesting history.

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Silk comes from the cocoon of the silk worm. It’s Interesting to know that the newly hatched silkworm can multiply its weight 10,000 times within a month when temperature is right.

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The silkworms must be fed until they have stored up enough energy for the cocoon stage. Then, they spend three or four days spinning a cocoon around themselves. Our tour guide shows the fascinating stages of how a pupa changes into moth and how a moth comes out from the cocoon:

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After eight or nine days in a warm and dry place, the cocoons are ready to be unwound. First they need to be steamed or baked, then dipped into hot water to loosen the tightly woven filaments. See how the cocoon is stretched after the loosening process:

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Each cocoon can be made up of a filament between 600 and 900 meters (1,968 ft to 2,953 ft) long! It takes 2,000 to 3,000 cocoons to yield one pound of silk.

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Reeling is the process that unwinding the silk filaments from the cocoon, next is combining them together to make a thread of raw silk.

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Silk can resist a lot of pulling type pressure, here four people are pulling a thin piece of silk on each side, but it does not endure the heavy wear as other fibers.

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History:

  • A silkworm cocoon, dated between 2600 to 2300 BC, was unearthed in 1927 in Shanxi, China.
  • A group of ribbons, threads, and woven fragments was found in Zhejiang, dated 3000 BC.
  • More recent archaeological finding was a small ivory cup carved with a silkworm design and believed to be 6000 to 7000 years old.
  • Sericulture reached Korea around 200 BC, when waves of Chinese immigrants arrived there.
  • In 300 AD, sericulture traveled westward and the cultivation of the silkworm was established in India. Silk reached the West through a number of different routes.
  • Chinese had kept the secret of silk for thousands of years. It was the most guarded secret in history.

Read more history of silk and Wikipedia.

Happy Thursday 🙂

60 thoughts on “The Queen of Textiles

  1. The most impressive post Amy 🙂 I used to wear silk shirts with my business suits till some years ago :). Now I use other materials instead. Thank you so very much for this interesting article and outstanding photo documentary 🙂

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  2. Pingback: Thursday’s Special: è u tempu sà (and the time knows) | Lost in Translation

  3. This is such a fascinating story, about a beautiful and wondrous material that has all but been forgotten with the advance of technology. The history of these threads goes further back than most of the history we can remember or relate to. And there are so many other stories that are related. I appreciate your reminding us of this subject, and giving us a little glimpse into the lives of people who are still connected to the process of preparing that material.

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    • It’s always fascinating to know the civilization goes back much further than we know. Thank you so much for your insights that certainly has extended my perspective.

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  4. Silks are beautiful material. Very informative post.

    I saw the process when I went to Turkey and I just didn’t like how the worms died in the process. This is the reason why I will not wear silk again.

    Please note that this has no bearing on your post. I like your post.

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  5. OMG!!! That is SO fascinating. Very Intersting! It’s like you walked us there and now, we don’t have to go too far to learn and be amazed. You got the facts and clear images to show. Thanks for the free tour Amy. Love this post.

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    • I appreciate you taking time to read the historic facts. They really took time to explain and tour us through the process. On the 4th photo, you can see our Japanese travel buddy who was carrying two cameras; but other times, he had three around his neck (one has a large lens) 🙂

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