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How Silk is Made

As with most things, Nature outshines man when it comes to producing exceptional materials. Silk is one such material, an all natural fiber originating from the cocoons of the silk moth. The process is deceptively simple, yet was held as a closely guarded secret in China for thousands of years.

The art of raising the silk worm and harvesting its cocoon is known as sericulture. In its pupal stage, the silk moth (bombyx mori) is a small caterpillar with a ravenous appetite for leaves of the mulberry tree. The silk moth is completely domesticated, being both flightless and sightless, and dependent on man for its survival. The sericulturist cultivates the worms through careful selection of the best leaves and precise environmental control. After about a month, the silkworm encases itself in a cocoon of silk, held together with a glue-like substance called sericin. If allowed to hatch, the silk strands will be broken, making it more difficult to spin the fibers into long threads, so the worm is usually killed via heat while still inside the cocoon. The silk moth caterpillar is a sensitive creature, with very specific temperature and humidity requirements. This is why silk makes such a great breathable insulator, and the ideal filling for a comforter.

After the cocoons are collected and sorted by quality, they are soaked in water to dissolve the sericin, and reeled (three to ten strands at a time) to create a silk thread. From this point, the silk is treated as most fibers (unless it is used as silk floss for filling): it is woven and dyed using various techniques to create the wide range of silk fabrics currently available.

Related article:
Silk Comforter Construction

Sources:
http://www.rdricketts.com/worm.html
http://www.silkmerchant.com/about_silk.html
http://www.liverpool.k12.ny.us

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