Silk is a beautiful fabric, arguably one of the most luxurious in the world. When you hear silk, you think, “look good, feel good”, but have you ever looked at a silk fabric and thought, “where did it come from?”
Well, we have and that is why we have written this. For your enlightenment.
What is silk made from?
Silk is made from silkworms. Some may argue that they are more like caterpillars that turn into moths in the latter stage of metamorphosis but the fact remains that they are called silkworms.
This is because of their ability to produce silk (formerly called cocoon before processed) through their salivary gland. Recent research on their production rate has proven that it takes over 2500 silkworms to adequately produce one pound of silk; crazy, we know. Silkworms’ ability to feed on mulberry leaves facilitates the production of cocoons.
To make the cocoon, they secrete fibroin; a sticky liquid protein which subsequently hardens once in contact with air; forming tiny strands of fibres. They, afterwards, make a tight-knit with these strands forming cocoons.
To separate the fibres again, the cocoons are placed into hot water. Once separated, they form long incredible strong strands which are subsequently woven into silk either into a fabric or thread.
Where did it all begin?
Silk production (Sericulture) began 4800 years ago in China and was mostly reserved for the crème de la crème of the society. In its original state, Silk is rich in two main types of protein – Sericin; the structural centre of silk and fibroin; the sticky part of it.
As the story goes, cocoons were first discovered by a Chinese princess after it fell into her cup of tea. The hot water unravelled the material thus enabling her to pull out meters of silk strand from it. After discovery, the princess’ maidens began to knit the strands and made beautiful fabrics from it. Ever since then, China who unravelled the life cycle of silkworm has kept on with silk production.
Types of Silk
There are several variations of silk but four types are produced around the world;
- The Mulberry Silk
- Eri silk
- Tasar silk
- Muga silk.
Mulberry silk contributes the highest percentage during silk production and is mostly referred to as the most important type of silk.
Other types of silk include Charmeuse, Chiffon, Crepe-de-chine, Dupion silk, Georgette, Habotai, Organza, Silk Satin, Shantuge, Silk Crepe-backed satin, velvet amongst others.
How is Silk Used today?
Bedding: One of the advantages of silk is that it is temperature regulating. This means that, in cold temperatures, it keeps you warm and in warm temperatures, it keeps you cool. As a result of this, silk is used in bedding; a fundamental factor in getting a peaceful rest.
Clothing: Silk is also used to make different types of clothing, ranging from underwear, shirts, socks, shirts amongst others. It is a superior material for clothing because it is hypoallergenic; not irritating to the skin.
Medicine: In medicine, Silk is used as a non- absorbable surgical suture. The discovery of this process has also led to the introduction of specialist silk underclothing, which has also been used for skin therapeutic condition.
Furniture Making: Silk’s lustrous nature and strength have made it easy to be used in furnishing application. It is used for upholstery, wall coverings, wall hangings and the rest of its kind.
Lastly, in industry, silk is used in making parachutes, bicycle tires, gun powder bags.
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