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What Is Silk?

Silk is a kind of fabric. It is made from the protein secretions of the silk worm—which is actually a type of caterpillar, and goes by the scientific name of Bombyx mori.

Silk was first developed in China thousands of years ago, and was then exported to Europe. Silk worms were smuggled out of China in the 13th century, and were eventually manufactured in Italy.

To this day, silk is popular for its incredibly soft texture, its durability, and its warmth. It is expensive, however, especially compared to synthetic fabrics like polyester. That’s because silk is natural, and must be “harvested” from silk worms who must be bred, fed and monitored. A lot of work and money goes into even just a small amount of silk thread!

Imagine this: to make 12 pounds of silk, you need 30,000 silk worms who can eat up to a ton of mulberry leaves. These worms must be carefully nurtured from incubation to maturity. A silk worm can produce several hundred eggs. The larva are then kept under careful temperature conditions, and if they reach maturity, must then pupate. They spin a shell from spinneretts, creating a pod made of protein-rich thread. The pupa are then heated, unfortunately killing the silk worm in the process. The pods are then submered into water, so the thread can be loosened and then woven into silk.

There are many “variations” of silk fabrics, depending on the type of weaving process. These include crepe, tram, and organzine.

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