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Unearthing Fabrics: Silk

Posted On : November 11, 2018

Linda Wairegi


Unearthing Fabrics is a new series that looks at the history of your favourite fabrics before you started wearing them on your backs.

It feels amazing when you’re running your fingertips through a silk blouse.

Smooth. Soft. Luxurious. Regal.


Discovery of silk

It was discovered in China by an Empress called Hsi Ling Shi married to Huang Ti. She was sitting outside when a cocoon fell into her cup and started unraveling & she was captivated by the colourful fabric. Realizing that it was a Bombyx mori silkworm. She started cultivating silkworms, developed seri-culture and inventing the reel and loom.


Silk is a natural fibre produced from a silkworm. Silkworm is fed Mulberry leaves and spins a cocoon as it matures. From the cocoon, the silk is extracted and turned into an expensive garment fit for royalty.


Four main types of silkworms exist in the world. Silk usually refers to the mulberry silkworm though. However, there are other types that don’t feed on mulberry. Eri silk; Tasar silk; and Muga silk.

Making silk?

Silk production also known as seri-culture has four main stages.

A) Silkworm eggs are hatched in a controlled environment and incubated for around 10 days. They turn into larvae (caterpillars) and measure about quarter an inch.

B) The silkworm lavae is shielded under a thin layer of gauze but still fed a lot for around six weeks. Silkworms fed on mulberry leaves have the finest silk. At 3 inches, it stops eating suddenly & changes colour because it’s ready to spin a silk cocoon.

C) It’ll get to work for 3 to 8 days after it attaches itself to a twig inside a spinning house. Silkworms release two twin silk filaments that are bind with sericin to protect the raw silk from breaking. Rotating itself in a figure-8 movement over 300,000 times, it can produce a kilometer of silk filament.

D) Finally, the cocoon is treated with hot steam to soften the sericin so the silk can be unraveled from it and turned into a garment using a spinning wheel and loom

Loving silk?

Silk is a hypoallergenic fabric, so people with super sensitive skin never need to worry about getting an allergic reaction. It’s perfect for all climates because its warm in the winter but cool in the heat. It dries easily whenever it absorbs moisture. Silk looks soft but its durable.

Looking after Silk?

Always look at the care tag on your silk garment. It can be hand-washed with lukewarm water and gentle soap. Never use bleach or leave it soaking in water. Roll it in a towel if you want to extract water. Dry it in the shade away from the sunlight. Silk holds its shape so hang it well.


Silk is expensive because it’s time-intensive to undertake seri-culture. Creating one kimono needs roughly one pound of silk that needs to be harvested from 2,000 to 3,000 cocoons.

Different  silk fabrics?

Raw silk still has sericin and feels tough to the touch and dull to look at. In addition, pure silk only has the sericin removed but nothing else altered and it becomes  lighter and glossy. Indeed, weighted silk is after raw silk has been boiled but metallic salts like iron & tin have been added so that it can add weight. Spun silk is created from broken cocoons after the moths leave and it feels like cotton.


Additional information about silk can be found from the sites below: texeresilk.com, trustedclothes.com, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silk &  inserco.org/en/types_of_silk

Linda Wairegi

Creative writer interested in life & being happy 😉

Linda Wairegi

Creative writer interested in life & being happy ;)


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