Silk, a natural product

Silk exists thanks to the silkworm. This creature solely feeds on the leaves of the mulberry tree. In the process of transforming to a butterfly, the silkworm spins a cocoon of very thin filaments and glue that it secretes itself. As soon as the cocoon is ready, but before the butterfly hatches, man intervenes by killing the silkworm. After that, the glue is slightly melted and the filaments are unwound. Several filaments are wound together so that they form a silk thread together. This is a very delicate job because the filaments can easily break. The quality of silk thread, also called rough silk, is determined by the weather conditions. Hot, humid air results in a bad quality; dry and cooler air is a guarantee for good silk. Silk thread is used for luxury clothing.

Kinds of silk

There are several kinds of silk. The Bombyx Mori caterpillar is used the most because they spin a cocoon with an extra long filament. Reel silk is made from the long filaments originating in the middle of the cocoon of the Bombyx Mori caterpillar. The total length of the thread can vary from 2500 to 3500 metres. Only the middle thread, which measures about 1000 to 1500 metres can be unwound in one go. From the shorter threads from the inner and outer part of the cocoon the so-called Chappe silk is made. Bourette silk is made from the rest product of the cocoon. This silk is less shiny.

The process

Before silk is woven, the glue is boiled from the silk. This process is called debarking. The weight of the silk is greatly reduced by this. In order to counter this effect, silk is sometimes made heavier. This kind of silk is also called organso silk and feels much harder. Furthermore, there is ‘rough silk’ that is usually dyed, but not boiled. There is animal-friendly wild silk, or Tussah silk which comes from cocoons of wild silkworms that have left their cocoons behind to become butterflies. Tussah silk is less shiny than natural silk and is harder to dye.

Properties of silk

Chemically, silk is closely related to wool. Both consist mainly of proteins, but contrary to wool, silk threads are smooth (it does not curl) and it has no scaly structure so that it has a beautiful shine. The silk thread is the finest of all natural filaments. Silk has a large number of user-friendly properties and therefore it can be put to various use. Besides clothing, it is used for endless other things. Think bedding, home textiles, duvet filling etc.

Advantages of silk, comfort

Silk is both strong and elastic. You can stretch a thread to five times its original length before it breaks. Silk is hard to charge with static electricity and apparently, according to antroposophic teachings, it protects against earth rays. Silk, and particularly wild silk, can absorb a lot of fluid (up to 40%) without the fabric feeling moist. It also has isothermal properties so that it feels cool in warm weather and comfortably warm in cold weather. That is why silk is popular as basic material for sports and casual clothing. Furthermore, silk is hardly susceptible to mould and moths. A less favourable property is that its colours can fade quickly due to sunlight.

The production of a silk duvet.

Kinds of silk

Different kinds of silk are used in making end products such as clothing and bedding. The best known are:

Maintenance of silk

What is the best way to wash silk? You will find more information here.

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