How is Silk Produced?

            Soft, lustrous and smooth, silk is a beautiful dress material. Silken cloth can be made so thin that a full bale of it can be passed through a small ring.

Cocoons of Silk

            Surprisingly, small insects called silkworms make silk. A silkworm makes a cocoon around itself, which increases in size as the worm grows inside it. When it becomes big, it is boiled in water. In this process, the worm inside the cocoon dies and silk is obtained from it. If this worm is allowed to grow, it turns into a butterfly.

            The Chinese knew the art of making silk approximately four thousand years ago. It is said that the Chinese queen Si Ling-Shi once put silkworm by mistake in a water pot, which contained hot water meant for washing hands. The next day, she saw milk threads coming out of the pot. Fascinated by it, she started keeping silkworms and used the silk prepared by them for making dresses. For years, the Chinese kept the art of making silk a secret.

            The Japanese were the first to learn this secret in the 3rd century. Around 550 A.D., king Justinian of Byzantium sent two Persian monks to china as spies. On their return, these two spies brought eggs of the silkworms in a bamboo tube. After this, the art of obtaining silk from the silkworms slowly spread throughout the world.

            In the beginning of the summer season, the female worm lays about 500 eggs on the leaves of mulberry trees. In around ten days, larvae come out these eggs. They are carefully examined and the diseased ones are separated and destroyed. These silkworms are brought up on the leaves of the mulberry. Silk is made from the juice coming through a hole in the mouth of the silkworms. In about 25 days, they form cocoons. One-fifth of the weight of a cocoon is silk. The silkworms are killed in hot water and silk is spun out. A cocoon has one long thread measuring 500 to 1300 meters. It is almost as strong as a steel wire of the same diameter.