THE GENUINE SILK
13 June 2022
Silk is a fabric first produced in Neolithic China from the filaments of the cocoon of the silk worm. It became a staple source of income for small farmers and, as weaving techniques improved, the reputation of Chinese silk spread so that it became highly desired across the empires of the ancient world. Silk has a long history in India. It is known as Resham in eastern and north India, and Pattu in southern parts of India.
India is the second largest producer of silk in the world after China. About 97% of the raw mulberry silk comes from six Indian states, namely, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Jammu and Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, and West Bengal North Bangalore, the upcoming site of a $20 million "Silk City" Ramanagara and Mysore contribute to a majority of silk production in Karnataka.
Sericulture is the process of cultivating silkworms and extracting silk from them. The caterpillars of the domestic silk moth (also called ‘Bombyx mori’) are the most commonly used silkworm species in sericulture. Other types of silkworms (such as Eri, Muga, and Tasar) are also cultivated for the production of ‘wild silks’.
Silk is a fibre made up two different proteins– sericin and fibroin. Approximately 80% of silk fiber is made up of fibroin, which is concentrated at the core. This core is surrounded by a layer of sericin (which makes up the remaining 20% of silk).
The presence of pigments (such as xanthophyll) in the sericin layer of the fiber imparts colour to the silk. Each type of silk has a distinct colour, as tabulated below.
Type of Silk
For the production of mulberry silk, the sericulture process follows three primary steps.
Moriculture – the cultivation of mulberry leaves.
Silkworm rearing – promoting the growth of the silkworm.
Silk reeling – the extraction of silk filaments from the silkworm cocoons
Finally, the silk filaments are woven together to form a thread. These threads are often plied together to form a yarn.
Silk is known for its beautiful drape and absorbent nature, along with other positive factors, including:
Texture. Silk is incredibly soft with a flattering sheen, giving it a high-end and luxurious appeal.
Strength and durability. It is also one of the strongest natural fibers, though some of its strength diminishes upon getting wet. Silk is often blended with other fibers, such as cotton, for added sturdiness.
Elasticity. The material’s flexibility makes it ideal for garments and upholstery.
Absorbency. Silk is one of the most absorbent fabrics, therefore it handles moisture well in clothing items.
However silk has some drawbacks as well, including:
Static cling. Since the material does not conduct electricity well, it can experience a lot of static.
Shrinkage. The fabric shrinks in the wash so a silk clothing item should always be dry-cleaned or the material should be washed before the clothing item is constructed.
Silk is primarily used in garments and household items, but it is also employed in unexpected ways, such as in bicycle tires and in medicine. Silk is great for summer clothing because of its absorbent nature and how it wicks moisture, and it is also a staple for winter wear since it has low conductive properties. Here are some examples of the material’s many uses.
Bridal and formal wear. Silk is a staple of many gowns and dresses thanks to its beautiful drape, and the long floats of yarn on one side create a dressy and lustrous appearance.
Ties and scarves. The material’s strength and nuances with color make it ideal for accessories. Many high-end ties are made from heavy silk, which allows for tightly woven patterns, rich colors, and durable material. Silk is also a great material for scarves for both decoration and for warmth.
Bedding. Silk sheets are the height of luxury and the material’s softness and absorbent nature makes it truly shine in the bedroom.
Parachutes. Silk was originally used for parachutes for its strength and elastic properties; however, nylon is more commonly used today.
Upholstery. Silk is used to cover furniture and pillows, and thanks to its strength and durability, it provides a long-lasting covering.
Wall hangings. Decorative wall hangings are often woven from silk, as the material is beautiful and dynamically reacts with colors and dyes.
Bicycle tires. The material is sometimes used in the tire’s casing because of its lightness, durability, and flexibility. Since silk can be expensive, the casings can also be made from nylon and cotton.
Surgical sutures. Since silk is a natural material, it has amazing uses in medicine. The material does not cause an autoimmune response and cannot be absorbed by the human body.