Where Does Silk Come From? A Captivating Tale Of Mulberry Silk Fabric | Kidadl


Where Does Silk Come From? A Captivating Tale Of Mulberry Silk Fabric

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Silk fabrics are regarded as some of the most luxurious fabrics in the world.

You’ll be surprised to know that these delicate-looking silk threads are five times stronger than steel! This is due to the presence of two main protein fibers namely fibroin and sericin.

Did you know that silk is known as the queen of fabrics? And there is no doubt that it is highly deserving of this title, as it is the strongest natural fiber in the world, which is very breathable, lustrous, and smooth to the touch. Silk was first discovered in China, the Chinese legend states that once a neolithic Chinese empress Hsi Ling Shi was sipping tea under a tree when a silk cocoon fell into her teacup. She tried to remove the cocoons from her tea and saw that shiny fibers unraveled, she wrapped these threads around her finger and after unwrapping it she discovered a small worm, and thus silk was discovered. The Chinese kept this a secret for almost 30 centuries! and Chinese silk became extremely popular worldwide. The silk industry in China is leading silk production across the world. Female silkmoths lay up to 500 eggs in one go.

After reading this article on where does silk come from and the structure of its fiber, do check where does metal come from and where does marble come from.

Where does the word 'silk' come from and how is silk made?

So you know how to produce silk? Now that we know how this beautiful fabric was discovered, you may wonder how it got its modern-day name and how our big luxurious bed sheets are made from small fibers reared by moths.

The exact origin of the word 'silk' is not known, however, the old English thesaurus mentioned silk as 'seoloc/ sioloc'. In Latin, it was called 'sericum/ serica'. The Greek called this fabric 'seres'. Although the modern-day name silk might have also come from the Chinese word 'si' and an amalgamation of Mongolian and greek variants, the exact origin of this name is highly uncertain.

The practice of breeding silkworms in order to obtain silk is known as sericulture. This practice to extract silk has been used over thousands of years in China and has also traveled to different parts of the world like India, Japan, and Korea. There are usually two types of methods to obtain silk, one is in a controlled domestic environment and the other is to wildly obtain silk. The latter is preferred by producers now due to various ethical reasons. The freshly woven cocoon by the larvae is known as raw silk which is then processed to obtain silk by boiling the cocoons in hot water. To obtain just a pound of silk about 3000 silkworm cocoons have to be killed, it means that it takes about 1000 cocoons to make one silk shirt!

Does silk come from plants?

Do you know how is silk made? Usually, silk is extracted from insects like the mulberry silkworm, spiders, and even clams, but in modern times people have recognized this practice as unethical and as animal brutality. Therefore plant-based and vegan types of silk have also been discovered, and the properties of the fabric thus vary accordingly. Some of the types of silk harvested using sericulture and used widely in the manufacturing of textiles.

Lotus Silk: Lotus silk is a very rare vegan fabric that has an uncanny resemblance to real animal-derived silk, this is the reason it is one of the most expensive natural silk fabrics in the world. The silk threads are derived from the stems of the lotus plant and the fabric is made without any toxins or chemicals, therefore lotus silk is the world’s most eco-friendly fabric and has a very high demand among high fashion lovers and for all the right reasons!

Bamboo Silk: Another vegan alternative to animal-derived silk is vegan bamboo silk. Bamboo silk is highly used to make bed sheets. There are two main ways of producing bamboo silk

The second way of producing vegan bamboo silk is by chemically treating the bamboo fibers, the outcome silk fabric is more coarse. In this process the bamboo shoots and stems are boiled with numerous chemicals to soften them, the end product is then used to make bed sheets and has a growing market, however,  this method is not sustainable and can cause damage to the people involved in the manufacturing process as well as the people living around areas where it is disposed.

Ramie silk: Ramie is a flowering plant that belongs to the nettle family. It has been used over centuries to make fabrics in many Asian countries. The fabric made from this flowering plant highly resembles silk and possesses similar qualities.

Silk is known to be an eco-friendly material during its entire life cycle. This is a big reason behind the growth in the silk-making industry as the demand for fiber is steadily increasing.

Rayon was created as a silk substitute in the 19th century.

Where does spider silk come from?

Do you know larvae of Bombyx mori, which is a name for the domestic silkmoth caterpillars, is widely used to produce silk commercially? Yes, mulberry silk is real silk.

As we discussed earlier spider silk is one of the strongest fibers in the world. It is four times heavier than a steel strand of the same diameter. But the question is where does this spider silk come from?

Unlike mulberry silkworms, also known as Bombyx mori, which are quite docile and easy to breed spiders, are insects that are not easy to deal with, the main reason is due to their cannibalistic behavior they cannot be bread in close proximity to each other as they would simply end up eating the other spiders, apart from that to produce only one square yard of fabric about 400 spiders would be needed, which almost makes the process impossible. The spider silk produced has its limitations too, once it is exposed to air for a certain period of time, it starts to harden and it becomes very difficult to work with it. Therefore instead of trying to obtain silk from spiders, scientists are trying to mimic this process artificially.

A couple of spiders together have about seven silk glands that produce seven kinds of silk, a male spider possesses three glands while the female possesses four( an additional one of egg sacs). The silk produced from the major ampullate is the strongest in strength and is used to spin webs and catch prey. The market for synthetic spider silk is growing rapidly and is estimated to become a billion-dollar industry in the coming time. This is because spider webs have amazing unique properties that can be utilized to make various different types of equipment and any useful alternative would easily replace kevlar- the strongest man-made fabric overnight.

Biodegradable water would replace the plastic bottles we use today and since it would be synthetically derived, we could make an abundance of it. We could also use this newly found material to make certain pieces of clothing like jackets and pants that would be wear and tear-proof. Apart from that, this could also be used to make artificial tendons and ligaments and efficient bullet-proof jackets.

Where does silk fabric come from?

Silk is one of the most expensive fabrics in the world, this is because it requires a lot of intensive manual labor and it is naturally obtained which means that its production has its limitations. A large number of silkworms have to be killed to obtain these lustrous, shiny threads and it is very difficult to find silkworms. China is the world’s largest producer of silk and manufactures two-thirds of the world’s silk.

The most common and finest affordable quality of silk comes from mulberry silkworms ad the silk produced is hypoallergenic. As a matter of fact, mulberry leaves are rich in natural protein and play an important role in the production process to produce silk. In order to obtain mulberry silk, the eggs of domesticated silk caterpillars are carefully placed on the leaves of mulberry trees so that when they hatch, they can feast on the mulberry leaves and then spin their cocoons on a branch. The cocoons are then put in boiling water to obtain a single unbroken silk thread of pure raw silk which is then processed. After the silk fibers have been unraveled, they deliver very long silk strands which are then used to make silk fiber. The protein fiber of silk is primarily made of fibroin.

The next process involves spinning, which can be done either modernly or traditionally, in recent times the traditional method of using a spinning wheel has died and modern technology is replaced it as it takes considerably less time. After spinning the next step involves weaving, In the process of weaving the spun material is then woven together using various styles like plain weave or satin. The woven fabric is then designed upon by either printing patterns or threadwork. The final step in this process is refinement in which the silk cloth is subjected to various chemical treatments to give final touches. The final product is then introduced into the market.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for where does silk come from in this captivating tale of mulberry silk fabric then why not take a look at where do sunflower seeds come from and where do strawberries come from, amazing berry facts for kids.

Written By
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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