What is silk?

Silk is a natural material that comes from the cocoon of a silk worm.  

Organic Silk Thread, hand reeled by humans

The journey through the life of a silk worm starts with the egg.

These wee yellow spots in the picture below are silk worm eggs.   There parents spent a vigorous 3 days mating, which results in 800 eggs /pair.   At the end of their mating session, the moths, both male and female die.   The eggs stay in stasis until the following year when the buds on the Mulberry tree appear.

Silk moths and their eggs

Above is a short movie showing the silk worm feeding on Mulberry leaves.  They are ferocious eaters and will be grow in size another 30-40% before starting their cocoons.  Most of their body weight will be used for the creation of the cocoon.

silk cocoons ready for hand reeling and spinning

Once the worm has created its cocoon it has approximately 9 days in stasis before it will emerge from its cocoon as a moth.  

silk cocoons with a silk moth that has just emerged

This leaves a very short time for the reeling of silk.

Reeling silk is the process of taking the silk fibres from the cocoon while the cocoon is in hot water.   Most silk is machine reeled today and is of very low quality compared to that of silk from the past.

There is still one family left for textile silk that reels and spins silk the old ways.

Below is a picture of silk being reeled from the hot water.

Weaver and silk reeler in Turkey

It's mesmerizing to watch a silk reeler.  It seems like such a simple process, yet it's so enthralling, you can't seem to take your eyes off the process as these little cocoons give a single strand of silk that comes together with 30-100 other strands of silk to form a single thread.  A cocoon can have as much as 3 football field lengths of silk thread.