How Silk is Made
Silk is an animal protein fiber produced by certain insects to build their cocoons and webs.
The commercial process of silk making is highly complex and labor intensive. The following will provide basic information on how silk is made. Enjoy!
First step :
Cultivation of the silkworm is known as sericulture. Although many insects produce silk, only the filament produced by Bombyx mori, the mulberry silk moth and a few others in the same genus, is used by the commercial silk industry.
[The “silkworm” is, technically, not a worm but a moth pupa. For the sake of simplicity and consistency, however, we will use the term silkworm throughout this writing.]
Hatching the Eggs
The first stage of silk production is the laying of silkworm eggs, in a controlled environment such as an aluminum box, which are then examined to ensure they are free from disease. The female deposits 300 to 400 eggs at a time.
In an area the size of your monitor screen, 100 moths would deposit some 40,000 eggs, each about the size of a pinhead. The female dies almost immediately after depositing the eggs and the male lives only a short time after. The adult possesses rudimentary mouthparts and does not eat during the short period of its mature existence.
The tiny eggs of the silkworm moth are incubated (about 10 days) until they hatch into larvae (caterpillars). At this point, the larva is about a quarter of an inch long.
The Feeding Period
Once hatched, the larvae are placed under a fine layer of gauze and fed huge amounts of chopped mulberry leaves during which time they shed their skin four times. The larvae may also feed on Osage orange or lettuce. Larvae fed on mulberry leaves produce the very finest silk. The larva will eat 50,000 times its initial weight in plant material.
For about six weeks the silkworm eats almost continually. After growing to its maximum size of about 3 inches at around 6 weeks, it stops eating, changes color, and is about 10,000 times heavier than when it hatched.
"The cultivated silkworm is entirely dependent on human care. It cannot abide loud noises or strong smells. A wet mulberry leaf can kill a silk worm. After a rain, farmers arrange fresh-picked leaves in rows across a sunlit courtyard and turn them continuously until they dry. Other times, with the care one might use to prepare food for a human infant, they wipe each leaf dry by hand, then chop them into little pieces.
"We feed them," the farmer says, "wholeheartedly.— By which I mean with our whole hearts." His wife comes toward us across a mosaic landscape: rice paddies seamed with groves of glossy, pollarded mulberry trees. From a basket slung across her shoulder, a cascade of just-picked leaves.
She tells us that raising silkworms requires strict attention: You have to focus solely on the silkworms, nothing else. You need to be dongxin, she says in local dialect, which translates as observant, eyes open as in a walking prayer"
The silkworm is now ready to spin a silk cocoon.
Spinning the Cocoon
The silkworm attaches itself to a compartmented frame, twig, tree or shrub in a rearing house to spin a silk cocoon over a 3 to 8 day period. This period is termed pupating.
Silkworms possess a pair of specially modified salivary glands called sericteries, which are used for the production of fibroin – a clear, viscous, proteinaceous fluid that is forced through openings called spinnerets on the mouthpart of the larva.
Liquid secretions from the two large glands in the insect emerge from the spinneret, a single exit tube in the head. The diameter of the spinneret determines the thickness of the silk thread, which is produced as a long, continuous filament. The secretions harden on exposure to the air and form twin filaments composed of fibroin, a protein material. A second pair of glands secretes a gummy binding fluid called sericin which bonds the two filaments together.
Steadily over the next four days, the silkworm rotates its body in a figure-8 movement some 300,000 times, constructing a cocoon and producing about a kilometer of silk filament.
Reeling the Filament
At this stage, the cocoon is treated with hot air, steam, or boiling water. The silk is then unbound from the cocoon by softening the sericin and then delicately and carefully unwinding, or 'reeling' the filaments from 4 - 8 cocoons at once, sometimes with a slight twist, to create a single strand.
In past centuries, families tended fires through the night—the eggs require heat to hatch. Sometimes women kept eggs warm against their skin, between their breasts.
As the sericin protects the silk fiber during processing, this is often left in until the yarn or even woven fabric stage. Raw silk is silk that still contains sericin. Once this is washed out (in soap and boiling water), the fabric is left soft, lustrous, and up to 30% lighter. The amount of usable silk in each cocoon is small, and about 2500 silkworms are required to produce a pound of raw silk.
Types of Silk
Raw silk is twisted into a strand sufficiently strong for weaving or knitting. This process of creating the silk yarn is called “throwing,” and prevents the thread from splitting into its constituent fibers.
Four different types of silk thread may be produced from this procedure: crepe, tram, thrown singles, and organzine. Crepe is made by twisting individual threads of raw silk, doubling two or more of these together, and then twisting them again. Tram is made by twisting two or more threads in only one direction. Thrown singles are individual threads that are twisted in only one direction. Organzine is a thread made by giving the raw silk a preliminary twist in one direction and then twisting two of these threads together in the opposite direction.
In general, organzine thread is used for the warp threads of materials, tram threads for the weft or filling, crepe thread for weaving crinkly fabrics and a single thread for sheer fabrics. Loves Pure Light silk that is hand painted is done on crepe, chiffon and rich buttery satin silks.
Broken or waste filaments and damaged cocoons are retained, treated to remove the sericin, and combed. This is then processed into yarn, marketed as spun silk, which is inferior in character to the reeled product and much cheaper.
Hand Painted Silk
Art, luxury, and functionality: all combine in one product to offer consummate value. The vibrant colors and images of our hand painted silk items make them both beautiful statement pieces as well as investments to be treasured.
Most of our silk garments are designed, drawn, and painted by hand: a skillful, labor intensive process. Dye saturation is methodically controlled during the process to ensure color integrity. Every piece is then pressure-steamed and put through a softening process for good colorfastness and comfort.
These silk paintings will outlast their peers in more traditional media.
Every hand painted Loves Pure Light silk is unique.The artists enjoy a lot of freedom in practicing their art. Therefore, they often improvise to modify the patterns provided to them. Such creativity and improvisations result in garments that are unique and reflective of the preferences and mood of the artist at a given time. Each piece has a prophetic meaning about Gods great love and identity through his son.
It is important not to expect machine-like consistency from handmade art. Handmade art will be non-uniform and will often have some imperfections. Such imperfections should not be considered defects; rather they are a sign of authenticity that the artwork was really created by hand. We see this as one of our greatest gifts is our imperfections in some of the designs. ( Adds more Character :))
The sumptuousness of pure silk, brilliant colors, and the creativity of master artists turn otherwise ordinary garments into wearable works of art.