Where Does Silk Come From?

Exactly one year ago this month, I studied abroad in South East Asia with Miami University of Ohio. Part of our trip included a visit to the Angkor Silk Farm in Cambodia.

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So often we find ourselves only appreciating the beautiful, delicate silk product, and we forget about the ugly little bug and the talented people who make it. Silk requires great care during its production so that is why it remains one of the most expensive and luxurious fabrics in the world. Here is a small peek into how silk is made. 

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Silkworm Lifecycle

As a result of thousands of years of careful breeding, silkworms have become highly dependent on humans for reproduction. The adult silkworm moth lays eggs 2 times a year. The eggs only take about 12 days to hatch. After hatching, the silkworms molt 4 times before entering the pupal phase. During this phase they cover themselves in a cocoon made of raw silk produced by the salivary glands. Unfortunately, the worm must be killed before exiting the cocoon, because the enzymes released as the newly formed mth is emerging destroy the silk. 

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Silkworm cocoons

Silk Properties

Silk has a smooth, soft texture that is not slippery, unlike many synthetic fibers. Silk is one of the strongest natural fibers, but can be easily damaged. Silk has very poor elasticity: if stretched even a small amount, it remains stretched. It can be weakened if exposed to too much sunlight. It may also be attacked by insects, especially if left dirty.

Production Process

After the silk fibers are softened, cleaned and unwound, they are then twisted until a strand of sufficient strength is produced. Different twisting methods produces different types of silk.

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Twisting the raw silk filaments into weavable thread

 

According to TexereSilk, four different types of silk thread may be produced from this procedure: crepe, tram, thrown singles, and organzine. Crepe is made by twisting individual threads of raw silk, doubling two or more of these together, and then twisting them again. Tram is made by twisting two or more threads in only one direction. Thrown singles are individual threads that are twisted in only one direction. Organzine is a thread made by giving the raw silk a preliminary twist in one direction and then twisting two of these threads together in the opposite direction.

 

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Weaving the silk threads into a single sheet of fabric.

After meeting the interesting and talented Cambodian people who spend hours in the silk factory, I have a newfound appreciation for silk. A person could spend days learning about the rich history of silk and the Asian silk trade.

Please give us a call for guidance on picking and using specific notions to use with silk at 1-800-534-0355.

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