Of Silk (03/23)
We visited a silk factory. The commercial tour demonstrates the silk making process from insect to completed products. The silk worms feed for 25 days on nothing but mulberry leaves. (The trees are cut back for winter and are not yet producing. But in summer and fall the demo includes live worms eating real leaves in all stages of development.)
After 25 days, the worms pupate. Two qualities of silk cocoon result: One worm spinning a single thread produces a top quality cocoon with a filament approximately 1 KM long! Sometimes two worms pupate closely together and mix up their filaments, producing a double cocoon which cannot be spun. This is the second quality silk and gets used for batting in silk quilts. They kill about 70% of the worms to get the filament thread uncut, and then use the dead worms in Chinese medicine for a variety of ailments.
They demonstrated how you agitate the cured cocoons to find the end of the hair-fine filament, and showed how 8 strands are wound together on a spoon to make a thread. All the work relating to the silk production is labor intensive and hand done. We actually got to practice stretching a square of doubled cocoons out to make a layer of silk bat. Four people stretch this small wad of silk into a gossamer web of queen sizedness.
You really begin to understand the cost of silk once you have experienced this process. The commercial end of this tour was selling bedding, duvet covers, and the silk quilts in one area, table settings and art work in another and clothing and accessories in a third. Very beautiful stuff, and for what it was, reasonably priced.
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