A little bit of history is essential to understand the real value of what you’re wearing.
We’re accustomed to live in a type of society that favors synthetic fibers over natural materials because of economic reasons, practicality etc.. A society in which deciding to wear clothes made of natural materials becomes a precise indicator of a more sensible attention to nature.
In my opinion no synthetic fiber feels as nice as a natural fabric.
5000 years of history
The origin of silk dates back to the year 3000 BC in China. For centuries the production and the trade of this precious fabric represented one of the most valuable and flourishing activities of the country. In time the refined creation of this material became an important sector of the Roman Empire. The network of trade routes which connected the East and West, and was central to the economic, cultural, political, and religious interactions between these regions was called “Silk Road”.
How is silk made?
The process of silk production starts by cultivating the silkworms on mulberry leaves. The raw silk is secreted by two salivary glands, in which a process of chemical synthesis takes place. The substance produced is then released as a sort of slime, which instantaneously solidifies when exposed to air.
At this point the worm starts to move its head to create, millimeter after millimeter, a cocoon made of raw silk whose average length ranges from 300 to 900 meters.
After 3-4 days of intense work the worm is ready to become a butterfly.
For many years the technique of sericulture was kept secret by Chinese artisans. However silk was later produced by other civilizations and it even underwent a phase of industrialization.
In order to obtain the desired product the natural process of transformation of a silkworm must be interrupted; the intact cocoons are boiled, a process that kills the pupas. Silk is obtained by brushing the undamaged cocoon to find the outside end of the filament. The silk filaments are then wound on a reel. One cocoon contains approximately 1,000 yards of silk filament. The silk at this stage is known as raw silk. One thread comprises up to 48 individual silk filaments.
The entire process is very long and tedious, which is why the price of this particular material has historically always been high.
Incredible characteristics; shiny, soft, natural thermal regulator
Raw silk and carded (?) silk are very different. The first one is cylindrical, slightly flattened and not homogenous. In some sections the thread has different diameters of thickness. Once the raw silk is cleaned and treated, the thread gains all its incredible characteristics. Silk can easily absorb pigments, for this reason it’s very easy to use different shades on the same piece. It’s a very elastic and resistant fabric, but it’s also incredibly soft.
Soft and light; silk is a very nice material to wear and, contrary to what some may think, silk is a natural thermal regulator, that keeps the body cold in summer and warm in winter.
Types of silk
Several different types of silk can be obtained from the raw thread. Silk can also be mixed with other materials such as wool, or synthetic fibers to increase its resistance.
The most common types of silk are:
These are some types of fabrics that combine silk with other materials:
- Crêpe de Chine
- Damask (fabric)