The origin of silk: How is silk made?

El origen de la seda: ¿Cómo se fabrica la seda?

The softness and other properties of silk make this fabric associated with luxury and quality. But do you know the origin of silk? We invite you to discover a little more about one of the oldest fabrics, which is still the star of the best catwalks in the world.

A little history about the origin of silk

The origin of silk as a textile dates back to China, more than 4,500 years ago. According to Chinese tradition, the 14-year-old bride of Emperor Huang Ti, named Hsi Ling Shi, invented the first silk reel. She has been known as the ‘Silk Goddess’ ever since.

Sericulture, or silkworm cultivation, spread throughout the country, making silk a highly prized commodity.

In 139 B.C., the world’s major trade route was inaugurated, running from eastern China to the Mediterranean Sea.

This is known as the “silk route”, whose name is due to the fact that this textile was precisely the item that generated the most trade.

By 300 A.D., the secret of silk production had already reached India and Japan.

The manufacture of silk reached Europe and America. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Europeans produced several advances in silk weaving.

These innovations meant that by the 18th century England was already leading silk production in Europe. These included improved looms, power looms and silk printing with rollers.

In the decade from 1855 to 1865, the epidemic of the so-called Pébrine disease, caused by a small parasite, caused major damage to the silk industry.

Eventually the scientist Louis Pasteur discovered that the disease could be prevented by microscopic examination of adult moths.

Today, silk production is a combination of ancient and modern techniques.

What is silk?

According to the EEC, silk is a “fiber that comes exclusively from cocoons of sericigenous insects”. Although it can also be known as natural protein fiber (fibroin) secreted by the silkworm (Bombyx mori).

Manufacture of silk step by step

  • The manufacture of silk begins with the laying of moth eggs. Female moths lay 300 to 400 eggs at a time and die after laying.
  • The larvae hatch in about 10 days and are about 0.6 cm long.
  • These larvae feed on large quantities of chopped mulberry leaves. These small larvae can eat up to 50,000 times their initial weight in plant material.
  • At six weeks, the larva stops eating, changes color and attaches to any compartmentalized structure to become a chrysalis.
  • In the following days, the worm weaves a silk cocoon around its body with the help of glands on its head. This cocoon is made up of between 800 and 1500 meters of silk thread.
  • To keep the silk cocoon in perfect condition, it is immersed in boiling water or steamed.
  • With the threading or drying process, the silk artisan’s work begins. To unravel the cocoon, it is cooked in a copper boiler with water at a temperature of 80 to 100 degrees Celsius. Then the artisan unravels them with a brush to pass them to a manual lathe that forms skeins.
  • These skeins are placed in the large winder, and from there to the ditch, up to the barrels. At this moment, a spindle is introduced into the barrel, which is turned to form a single thread of greater consistency with the 2 or 4 strands.
  • To achieve greater softness and twist, the strands are moistened. Finally, skeins are obtained.
  • These skeins are boiled and bleached with soap and water and dried in the sun.
  • This would be the moment to dye the silk with natural dyes or leave it in its original color.
  • The silk skeins are then returned to the cannons to make the warp and pass in braids to the weaving mill.

Conclusion

What do you think about the origin of silk? In Hamzah.es we bet for the handmade manufacture to give shape to our silk scarves online. Take a look at our silk scarves shop to discover our different models of silk scarves and silk scarves.

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