Silk is a natural protein fiber, some types of which can be woven and sewn into textiles. The most-known form of silk is cured from cocoons produced by the larvae of the mulberry silkworm Bombyx modi emerging from captivity (sericulture). The shine appearance in which silk is known comes from the fibers prism-like structure which allows silk material to refract incoming light at multiple positions.
"Wild silks" are produced by caterpillars other than the mulberry silkworm and may be artificially cultivated. A variety of silks have been known and used in China, Asia, and Europe since the begining of time, but the scale of production was much smaller than that of cultivated silks. They differ from the domesticated varieties in feel and color, and cocoons gathered in the wild usually have been damaged by the emerging moth just before the cocoons are collected, so the silk thread that makes up the cocoon has been ripped into shorter lengths. Commercially silkworm pupae are terminated by submerging them in boiling water before the adult moths emerge, or by piercing them with a needle, allowing the whole cocoon to be unravelled as one thread in succession. This allows a much stronger cloth to be woven from the silk. Wild silks also can be more difficult to dye than silk from the cultivated worms of silk origin.
There is evidence that small quantities of wild silk were being manufactured in the Mediterranean area and the Middle East by the time the stringent, cultivated silk from China began to be imported.
How is silk manufactured?
Silk production is a tedious and lengthy process that requires continuous supervising of the smallest of the details. To ensure the quality of silk, it is important to consider two conditions:
-Stop the moth from hatching.
-Setting the nutritional diet, on which the silkworms should eat.
The hatching of the eggs occurs at 75 degrees or so; the young silk worms feed heavily on the mulberry leaves and becomes almost 9,000 times their weight within 30 days. This feeding happens unless they have built up enough stamina to enter the ‘cocoon stage’. During this cycle, a jam like substance is formed in their silk glands which stiffen on contact with oxygen. These cocoons look like white oval puffs, kind of like cotton balls. After seven to ten days, these silk worms are terminated, by steaming or baking. When these cocoons are submerged into hot water, they become loose and open out into filaments which are string-like and unwound into a spool. Each strand is between 650 and 950 meters long. To get one silk thread, approximately six to eight filaments are twisted together; these silk threads are then weaved into cloth or used for embroidery work.
Types of silk fabrics
Charmeuse – This silk type is one of the most commonly recognized fabrics that are available in the marketplace today. It is typically characterized by its lustrous shine and sumptuous feel and is primarily used for the manufacture of shirts, dresses, eveningwear, nightgowns, lingerie, and gently shaped tops
Crepe de Chine or CDC – This type of silk has a ‘matte’ surface and a ‘pebbled’ texture; besides it is also very durable and does not wrinkle. Due to its lighter weight, it is a hot favorite among the designers and is primarily used for fashionable and sophisticated shirts, dresses, suits and evening wear. Great for those long dance night outings.
Filament silk - Made of single strands that vary in length, this agile knit fabric maximizes silk’s amazing ability to insulate your body and stomp out moisture. It is most known for its light in weight yet highly strong status. Its versatile and luxurious feel makes it ideal for the chic and opulent lingerie’s slips, and evening wraps. The natural spandexy quality of this fabric ensures all day comfort and is wonderful for beneath casual & business fashion.
Georgette – Georgette reminds one of crepe de Chine. It is soft and lustrous that falls easily and into soft ripples. It has a grainy texture and is utilized for the production of dresses, skirts, blouses, tops and evening wear.
Habutai – “Habutai”, defined as ‘soft and falling easily’ in Japanese was first used for the manufacture of Kimonos. It is light and soft, and lustrous with a very smooth drape and surface and is used for making coats, shirts, lingerie, suits, quilts, jacket insides, dresses and dresswear.