Silk Production: How Silk is Made
For centuries silk has rightfully enjoyed a reputation as a luxurious and sensuous fabric, one associated with wealth and success. It is one of the oldest textile fibers known to man.
Cultivation is a difficult process that begins with the silk moth. The moth lays hundreds of eggs about the size of a pinhead that are examined and discarded if they are diseased. The eggs are then put in cold storage for six to ten months until the mulberry trees bud.
After incubation, the eggs hatch into larvae. For about a month these larvae live in a carefully controlled environment eating cleaned, chopped mulberry leaves. They grow quickly and become caterpillars called silk worms. The silk worm is quite discerning about its environment. If the conditions are less than ideal, the silkworm produces inferior silk, or no silk.
The silkworm then starts to spin a cocoon for itself to protect it while it transforms into a moth. A single cocoon yields 1,600 - 5280 feet of continuous filament. It is this length of fiber that makes silk fabric unlike any other type of fiber.
- Is the strongest natural fiber. A steel filament of the same diameter as silk will break before a filament of silk will.
- Is porous, which allows it to breathe and absorb moisture. Therefore it’s cool in the summer, and warm in the winter.
- Is easy to dye and takes on deep colors beautifully. Often silk is dyed in bright or iridescent colors. Depending on the weave, silk prints often look almost as good on the back side as on the front.
- Reflects the light because of its smooth fiber. This creates luster and beauty.
- Silk is tough. Tougher than cotton and fine wool. It also has a natural resistance to mold.
- Retains its shape, drapes beautifully, and has a silky feel all its own