Smooth for your pleasure~ (talkin’ about silk, u perv.)
If you are in fashion, you’ve heard of silk. (You havn't? Get the fork out!!!)
The rest of you’ve all heard of silk. The most common known silk is made by mulberry silkworms (there are actually a few different types of silk-making worms). But who was the first one to go... Hey, look! A worm! I think I’m gonna raise like a bunch of them so they can make me a shirt!
Disclaimer: the following story is fictional but based on (said to be) facts, and reimagined in a way Bunny (the author) finds it funny. :)
It was a lovely day in spring (roughly 2,688 BCE). Sun is shining, birds are chirping, and Empress Leizu was chilling by the mulberry tree in the garden. She’s sipping on some fine-a** Chinese tea (Well in China, they just call it tea), her face is serene and graceful, but actuality she’s legit bored and wishes she could binge-watch shows right now. But since Netflix wasn’t invented then, it’s kinda difficult.
Sooo… she sat there zoning out when suddenly something fell in her teacup. She looked in her cup, thinking it was a leaf or something, but it was a white oval shaped silkworm cocoon. She was like Eww.. a bug in my fine-a** tea, I can’t even right now…
Then she notices, the white cocoon started to unravel, it looked like a little ball of thin shiny thread. Just then, a lantern lit up in her head (cause light bulb hasn’t been invented either), what if this can be weaved into clothes! And the rest is history (pun intended).
Silk has been around for a looong time. The silk fiber is highly praised for it’s soft, smooth handfeel and beautiful sheen & luster. Why are they shiny? Cause up close, silk fiber strand looked like a triangle tube, thread surfaces act like a prism and reflect the light that hit them in multiple directions. BAM!!! Science! ( Link to that) Different breeds of silkworms can also produce different color cocoons: White, Lt. Pink, Lt. Yellow, Lt. Green... They are like, so pretty~
The main production method right now involves raising silkworms to harvest their cocoons, boiling the cocoons to unravel the silk then feed the silk strands onto reels. After, these reels will go through varies (some chemical) treatments such as cleaning, dyeing, spinning before it can be weaved into fabrics.
I particularly love the awesome byproducts from silk production! They are mainly machinery waste, such as the ends of silk reel, silk spool and raw silk. Raw silk is fiber strands that aren’t treated yet. All natru~alll, baby! The handfeel of raw silk is rougher and they are just amazin’ to get experimental with! Use them to create beautiful irregular patterns and textures such as the slubbed texture similar to dupioni silk or perhaps use it for felting. (Always thought that’s a cool technique but lack the patience for it, lol) Lotta potential to upcycle and invent!
Aren’t these freakin’ adorb!!! :D
Silk strand is thin, strong but the boiling process to get that long continuous soft strand will kill the larva inside. A more humane production method is the Peace Silk (also referred as organic silk or vegan silk sometimes) where you let the larva live, turn into a moth and break out the cocoon before harvest the silk. Since the moth had to chew open the cocoon, that continuous thread is now cut, that’s why Peace Silk will look and feel a bit different.
So ok. I’m not really fond of bugs, I have suffered enough from mosquitoes and I WILL scream if I see a caterpillar (embarrassing but true). But if there is a way to get the full silk strand without killing the moth (since they only live for a week) why not right?
Now… You ready for this?!
Flat silk collection method - a way for the silkworm to spit the silk onto a flat coarse surface instead of wrapping itself inside an oval cocoon. By altering silkworms’ behavior, you can have long continuous silk strand without hurting them lil’ worms. (Again, will scream if I see one. 🤗 )
I havn’t dug deep enough into this method yet, so lots of unanswered questions. Like what’s the silkworms’ mortality rate, the overall cost, how do they collect/contain all those live moths without affecting the surrounding ecosystems...and...and what about the moths remains… are they trashed or can they be turned into insect protein or animal feeds?!?!...
SO MANY QUESTIONS!!!
Author’s side note: While I was writing this article, my mom told me when she was little, her grandmother already told her about “flat silk” (I sh*t you not). So I looked it up and found patent papers, methods, diagrams that were dated decades ago... *Mind blown! 😱😱😱 Mom also said many great artisanal techniques died with the family or got overshadowed by another technique that made it to the mass market first.
If you are in the silk biz, I would love your input and get some of my questions answered! :D