What is Silk?

Natural fibres divide into animal and plant fibres. Animal fibres are those that are composed of amino acids called proteins, plant fibres are those made mainly of cellulose. Examples of animal fibres are alpaca, angora, cashmere, mohair, silk, and wool. Plant fibres can be things like in abaca, cotton, flax, hemp, jute.

Natural fibres themselves also differ from man-made artificial and synthetic fibres. These fibres consist of rayon, nylon, acrylic, and polyester. Each of these are unable to decompose.

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One such fabric is silk, sometimes called the “queen of the fabrics.” Its original development was in ancient China. Silk is produced from a silkworm. The worm is fed Mulberry leaves, as it matures the worm spins a cocoon.

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Silk worm

Once filaments are made of silk, they can have a great strength and can measure from 500 to 1500 m in length, which is quite substantial given the source. The actual form of the woven silk is a triangular structure. Its absorbency is good and it dyes well, and is produced in over 20 countries. These include the major producers, such as Asia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Egypt, and Madagascar. The particular type of industry, in terms of the manufacture of silk from silkworms, is called sericulture.

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A farmer holds silkworm cocoons to be processed into raw silk as an alternative livelihood to marijuana cultivation in Kapangan, Benguet province north of Manila April 18, 2008. Hundreds of white mulberry trees have started to cover mountain slopes deep in the northern Philippines’ Cordillera region, changing not just the landscape but also making over the image of a poor farming town. To match feature PHILIPPINES-DRUGS/ REUTERS/John Javellana (PHILIPPINES) – RTR1ZR05

There are over 1 million workers in China alone with the provision of production for households, and in India, upwards of 700,000, and growing. The production and trade of silk can range from about 100,000 tons to 150,000 tons per annum. Of the producers of silk in the world, China produces 70% of it, with the other more than 20 countries producing 30%.

The price for raw silk is 20 times as much as the raw price for cotton (circa 2008). It does provide a warmth during the cold months and is typically used in fashion such as lingerie and underwear. It is generally used in textiles and upholstery. Silk is diverse and beautiful, lets just try to involve ethics and sustainability when seeking quality!

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About the Author

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping and gardening, and runs In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

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