For thousands of years, especially in China, the noble silk fibre has been used from the cocoons won from the silkworms.
Silk production originated from China where silk has been produced since 2800 BC. Silk was already around during the antique and Middle Ages as an important commodity which was transported to Europe via the silk road. In addition to China, where today the majority is produced, Japan, India and Thailand are other important producing countries.
Silk is characterized by its shine, high strength, hardly ever wrinkles and it insulates against the cold and heat. Due to its low density, silk is very light and comfortable to wear. Silk fabrics achieve particularly beautiful and vibrant colours.
The extraction of the mulberry silk is traditionally done by killing the pupated caterpillars in their coons by drying them in hot air or the sun. The cocoons result in a continuous, very long and fine filament from which the silk thread is won. The cocoons are then placed in hot water or superheated steam to loosen the sericin, the silk glue. Three to eight cocoons are put together and unwound or coiled.
There are two non-violent methods of silk production, which are mainly practiced in India. The Tussah silk use cocoons from which butterflies have hatched and are subsequently collected and processed. After the butterfly’s hatch through a hole, they are not in one continuous thread, but must be plucked.
Another technique has been developed where the cocoons are cut and the butterfly can hatch through this without destroying the cocoon with their secretions. The silk obtained in this way is called Ahimsa Silk or peace silk.
Protection and Care
Due to their water sensitivity, silk fabrics must be washed carefully by hand. Silk must not be wrung out as it is sensitive to shape when wet. IT is ironed from left at a medium temperature of 130-160°C and the silk should still be slightly damp. Silk is also sensitive to the sun and the colour can fade and turn the silk yellow. Therefore, direct and strong sunlight should be avoided.
If the lives of the caterpillars and butterflies is important to you take care when buying silk and make sure that it is Tussah or Ahimsa silk (peace silk)