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.

suzhou-silk-scarves

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.

IMG_2425

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:

IMG_2427

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:

IMG_2436

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.

IMG_2424

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

IMG_2430

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.

IMG_2438

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 🙂

%d bloggers like this: