Silk is absorbent, making it comfortable to wear in warmer climates. In cold weather, silk keeps you warm due to its low conductivity. It is often used for clothing such as formal dresses, blouses, ties, and shirts. It is also used for folk costumes, sun dresses, dress suits, robes, pajamas, lingerie and the lining of expensive clothes. Silk can be dyed. It protects from horseflies and mosquitoes. It has an attractive drape and luster that makes it great for applications of furnishing as well. It can be used as window treatments, wall coverings, and upholstery. Silk has many commercial and industrial uses including bicycle tires and parachutes.
A natural fiber protein, silk can be used for weaving textiles. Mainly, silk’s protein fiber is made up of fibroin. The production process involves the larvae of certain insects to create cocoons. The most popular silk in the world is taken from larvae cocoons of the Bombyx mori mulberry silkworm in sericulture, which means reared while captive. Silk’s shimmer and appearance come from the silk fiber’s structure of being like a prism. This allows the cloth of silk to refract light coming in at varied angles. Thus, different colors are produced.
Silk in India
In India, there is a long history of silk. In the north and eastern India, it is known as Resham. In India’s southern parts, it is called Pattu. Recent archaeological finds suggest that the ancient civilizations in India knew how to harvest silkworms and knew a lot about silks. India is the second largest silk producer in the world. Almost one hundred percent of raw silk comes from five states in India namely West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka and Andrha Pradesh. The up and coming site in North Bangladore of the twenty million Silk City Mysore and Ramanagara contribute to Karnataka’s major silk production.
Silk in Ancient China
It was in ancient China in which Silk fabric was first developed. Silk fabric first examples are from the year 3630BC. These were used for wrapping a child’s body from the site of Yangshao culture in Qingtaicun at Henan. Silk development has a legend that has to do with Leizu, an empress of China. Originally, silk was reserved for exclusive use of the Chinese emperors or for them to give this as a gift to others. Gradually, silk use spread throughout the culture of China and became traded both socially and geographically. Later on it spread throughout the rest of Asia. Due to its luster and texture, silk became a luxury fabric rapidly popular in the many accessible areas to merchants from China. There was a great demand for silk, and this became a staple of international trade in the pre-industrial times. Later, intricately dyed and woven silk textiles were discovered by archaeologists in a Jianxi province tomb dated about two thousand five hundred years ago in the Eastern Zhou Dynasty. Even if there is a suspected long history suspected by historians about the forming of ancient China’s textile industry, the newly found silk that involved techniques of dyeing and weaving which were complicated is real evidence that silk dated before the Mawangdui discovery.
The Production of Silk
Several insects can be used to produce silk. In general, however, only the moth caterpillar silk has been utilized for the manufacturing of textiles. When it comes to other silk types, there has been a lot of research which vary at the level of molecules. Mainly, silk is produced by insect larvae going through total metamorphosis. Certain insects like raspy crickets and web spinners produce silk for the entirety of their lives. Also, the production of silk occurs in ants, wasps, bees and other Hymenoptera, midges, flies, fleas, lacewings, beetles, leafhoppers, thrips, mayflies and silverfish. Silk is also produced by other arthropod types, and the most notable are varied spider arachnids.
Silk in the Wild
There are different kinds of silk in the wild other than the type produced by the mulberry silkworm and produced by caterpillars. These have been used in Europe, South Asia, and China since time immemorial. On the other hand, compared to cultivated silk, wild silk has always had a smaller production scale. The reasons for this are many. For one thing, the final product does not come in uniform color as wild silk varies in texture and color. Next, wild cocoons that have been gathered sometimes have the pupa having emerged from them before being discovered. The result of this is that the silk thread comes in shorter lengths. Also, there are different mineral layers that cover the wild cocoons, preventing any attempt to reel them into long silk strands. For these reasons, the only way to acquire suitable silk for creating textiles in the wild was through labor-intensive, tedious carding.
Reared silkworm pupae are where commercial silks come from. These are bred for producing a silk thread that is white in color with no surface mineral. The pupa is either pierced with a needle or dipped into boiling water before the finished moth emerges. Factors such as these all contribute to the whole cocoon’s ability to unravel as one thread continuously. This permits a long silk cloth woven from the threads. Also, silk gathered from the wild is a bit harder to dye than cultivated silkworm silk.
Demineralizing is a technique allowing the outer cocoon layers of wild silk to be taken off. This leaves color variability as the only barrier to creating an industry of commercial silk based on silk from the wild in parts of the globe where the wild moths for silk thrive. These countries include South America and Africa. More useful types of silk can be produced through domestic silkworms that have been modified genetically.
It is no wonder why silk fabric is in demand now more than ever. Its quality, luster, and drape are simply unmatched. Plus, you can dye it in a million shades for added luminosity.