45+ Surprising Silk Facts That Every Cloth Lover Should Know | Kidadl

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45+ Surprising Silk Facts That Every Cloth Lover Should Know

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The very word silk oozes luxury.

From the very moment when silk was first invented, it has been considered a luxury enjoyed by the upper classes of society. Like every other cloth material, creating silk also involves a particular process.

Although it was discovered and created in Central Asia, silk's popularity has spread world. Raw silk produced is imported to other countries to be used to create various products. Silk is a material known for being expensive. It is expensive because of the high cost of producing silk. Apart from silk weaving, the silk production process can also involve silk dyeing. Once something that was only enjoyed by a small number of people, today silk is affordable and lots of people can now wear silk. Even though silk dresses are just like any other garments created out of different types of fabrics, they still have to be treated with care. You might have noticed there are lots of rules when it comes to washing and treating silk clothing. These have to be followed in order to maintain the quality and not ruin the silk. A silk expert would probably advise you not to put silk, especially dark-colored silk, in bleach as silk can turn yellow. White-colored silk can turn yellow too when exposed to a high amount of bleach. This is because bleach chemicals damage silk fabrics and make them turn to their original color.

Invention Of Silk

People enjoy the luxury of silk in many ways. But have you ever wondered where, when, and how silk came to be invented? Here are some interesting silk facts that will tell you things about the invention of silk that you never knew before.

  • According to a legend, it is believed that the very first idea of silk was inspired through a cup of tea in China.
  • It was the Yellow Emperor's wife, Leizu, who first had the idea about silk cloth around 2696 BC.
  • While Leizu was having her tea in the imperial gardens one day, a cocoon fell into her cup of tea and it unraveled. Leizu realized that the cocoon was composed of a thread that was not only long but also soft and strong.
  • She then discovered the process of combining the silk filaments to create a thread.
  • Leizu created the loom, which merged the silk threads together to form silk cloth.
  • Soon, more and more mulberry trees were planted to create a forest for silkworms to eat through and for Leizu to use their cocoons to form silk fabric. She then went on to teach other citizens of China how to create silk.
  • China had the monopoly of producing and distributing silk for centuries. The rest of the world was dependent on China for getting silk.
  • Even today, China is the world's largest silk producer. About 78% of the world's silk is produced in China.
  • Interestingly, in the 13th century, one of the major producers of silk was Italy. Even now, Italy still makes some of the finest silk in the world.
  • The silk production process has various steps involved in it. The traditional way of silk production involves raising Bombyx mori, a mulberry silk moth, or domestic silk moth species.
  • The Bombyx mori or the domestic silk moth is the most common species used to produce silk. There are also wild silkworms that can be utilized to create silk.
  • There is also the sea silk that is not produced through domestic or wild silkworms, but through a clam, an aquatic animal.
  • Sea silk is very rare and valuable.
  • Sea silk is also known as byssus.
  • The silk-making process begins when silkworm eggs hatch to give way to silkworm larvae.
  • The second step involves the larvae being fed chopped mulberry leaves for about a month.
  • These silkworms, after a month or so of being larvae, begin to spin a cocoon around themselves as they prepare to transform into moths.
  • During the production of silk, the cocoons are first steamed to kill the moths growing inside, then they are washed with water to make the silk thread loosen up.
  • Silk-makers then unwind the single silk fiber and combine at least five or six of them to create a long silk thread which is then woven with other silk threads to create a cloth.
  • The cloth is then pounded to make it soft before it is styled to make clothing garments.
  • The art of silk production has another name, sericulture.

Importance Of Silk

Silk has been dubbed the queen of fabrics because of its rich texture. Yet, silk isn't just limited to the world of clothing. It has evolved to incorporate cultures, ideologies, and so much more. Here are some facts about silk and its significance in various aspects of life.

  • Chinese silk was what inspired the name of the Silk Road, an important trade route in China.
  • Up until the making of the Silk Road, the silk trade was limited to the country of China. However, once the Silk Road opened up, trade with the neighboring countries became possible.
  • Silk improved the trade relations of China with other countries. Yet, silk isn't just a fabric material for China.
  • For China and its citizens, silk is also interlaced with their history and culture.
  • In China, silk symbolizes prosperity. It was also a symbol of wealth and status in ancient Chinese society.
  • In ancient China, silk garments were worn only by wealthy people or those who helped someone in a position of power and authority, like the royal family. Meanwhile, poor people had to wear clothes made of hemp or ramie.
  • Silk in the Chinese Empire was also used as a gift for visiting dignitaries, and it was also used to create ceremonial clothes.
  • Silk had become so important in ancient China that people who were found smuggling silkworm eggs, mulberry seeds, or cocoons were executed.
  • China's tourism has also been affected by silk over the years. People visit China to go to the Silk Road and Hangzhou Silk Museum, which are just a few of the silk attractions apart from the silk textiles themselves.
  • Silk fabrics have also influenced the general fashion of China. Shanghai isn't just the biggest city and global financial center of China, it is also known as the silk fashion capital.
Raw silk is heavily imported from China by other countries.

Uses Of Silk

Silk products are used all over the world. The silk industry produces silk not only for fashionable clothes but also for other purposes.

  • The first and most popularly known utility of silk is making silk attires.
  • Qipaos are kinds of evening dresses in China that are created using silk fabric.
  • Silk fabric is also used to make silk bedding including silk pillowcases.
  • Silk bedding and a silk pillowcase were luxuries that were once enjoyed by the royals of China.
  • A silk pillowcase is actually recommended by many hair experts to help maintain great hair texture.
  • Some lesser-known uses of silk are for parachutes, surgical sutures, and bicycle tires.
  • Ties and scarves made from silk are also quite popular.
  • Different types of silk fabrics can also be used to create upholstery and wall hangings to decorate homes.
  • Dresses made of silk are often used as bridal gowns and formal evening wear because of their soft and shiny drape.
  • Silk isn't just used to make dresses for women, there are also casual and formal silk shirts for men.
  • Silk was also used as a canvas to paint on in the past.

When was the first silk made?

Leizu, wife of the Yellow Emperor, discovered silk through the cocoon of the silkworm that fell into her teacup. Apart from what the legend states, other remnants of silk and related materials from history have also been found.

  • Archeologists unearthed a half silkworm cocoon in 1927. It was found in the loess soil near the Yellow River of the Shanxi Province.
  • The half cocoon is supposed to be from 2600-2300 BC.
  • Recently, an ivory cup with a silkworm design carved into it was unearthed from the lower part of the Yangtze River.
  • Along with the cup, excavators also found spinning tools, fabric fragments, and silk thread. The cup is said to be more than 7000 years old.
  • Threads, woven fragments, and ribbons from about 3000 BC were also excavated at Qianshanyang of Zhejiang Province.
  • There is no particular record for when exactly the first piece of silk was created.
  • If the legend is to be believed, the first piece of silk would be what the empress found in her teacup and the silk that was subsequently created under her watch by the women working for her.

Did You Know...

While silk is a popular choice of fabric because it is so soft, there are issues with how it is made.

  • The traditional way of producing silk is considered by some people as inhumane. There is criticism because, in this traditional process, silkworms that are just about to transform into moths are killed during the process of creating silk. More than 30,000 silkworms have to be killed to produce about 12 lb (5.4 kg) of silk if the traditional method is used.
  • On the other hand, there is an alternative way of producing silk. This method is known as the Ahimsa silk production method. This particular method is said to be more humane than the conventional method because the cocoons of silkworms are only gathered when the moths have already hatched. This way, moths are not killed and silk is also produced.
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Kidadl Team

The Kidadl Team is made up of people from different walks of life, from different families and backgrounds, each with unique experiences and nuggets of wisdom to share with you. From lino cutting to surfing to children’s mental health, their hobbies and interests range far and wide. They are passionate about turning your everyday moments into memories and bringing you inspiring ideas to have fun with your family.

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