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Silk

Silk is a natural fabric, made of the drool produced by silkworms.

Silk: Sericulture in the East and in the West

«The fabric to wear to reach God»: that’s the way an ancient Chinese proverb describes silk. It has always been synonymous with nobility, elegance and luxury. A magnificence which originates from filamented drool use by silkworms to weave their cocoons.

Sericulture was probably already born in 3000 b.C., in China, the country which still nowadays provides two thirds of the raw yarn in the world. That’s a millenary experience which intertwines with the history of relationships between the East and the West. Although Chinese emperors tried to keep secret the knowledge about sericulture, indeed, it began spreading around 300 b.C.; so about 550 a.D., it reached Europe.

In the West, it weaving had its golden age in the XVI century, when damasks, brocades and velvets were produced in Venice, Florence and Lyons for every royal courts in the world. Then Italy became the main western provider, mainly thanks to its Como, Forlì and Caserta districts; nowadays, although production ceased, the country remains the main market, due to the quality of products worked here.

Silk is a natural protein fiber, highly prized for its luxurious texture and lustrous sheen. Originating from the cocoon of the silkworm, Bombyx mori, silk has been a staple of high-quality textiles for thousands of years, with its production dating back to ancient China around 2700 BCE. The process of creating silk is intricate and labor-intensive, contributing to its status as one of the most luxurious fabrics in the world.

Production Process:
The production of it begins with the cultivation of silkworms. These worms are fed mulberry leaves until they form cocoons. The cocoons are then carefully unraveled to produce long strands of silk fiber. These fibers are spun into threads, which can be woven or knitted into fabric. The entire process requires precision and expertise to ensure the silk retains its natural strength and shine.

Characteristics:
It is renowned for its unique combination of strength, softness, and sheen. It is one of the strongest natural fibers, yet it feels incredibly soft against the skin. Its natural sheen comes from the structure of the fiber, which reflects light at different angles, giving it a shimmering appearance. It is also highly breathable and has excellent moisture-wicking properties, making it comfortable to wear in both warm and cool climates.

Uses:
Its versatility makes it suitable for a wide range of applications. In fashion, it is used to create elegant evening gowns, luxurious scarves, ties, and lingerie. Its smooth texture and natural luster make it a favorite for high-end garments. Beyond fashion, It is used in home decor for items such as curtains, upholstery, and bed linens, adding a touch of elegance and sophistication to interiors. Additionally, silk’s hypoallergenic properties make it a popular choice for medical applications, such as sutures and wound dressings.

Sustainability:
Modern advancements have led to more sustainable silk production practices. Efforts are being made to ensure that silk farming and production are environmentally friendly and ethically managed. This includes using organic farming methods, reducing chemical usage, and ensuring fair labor practices.

Innovations:
Today, it is not only valued for its traditional uses but also for its potential in various innovative applications. Researchers are exploring the use of silk in biomedicine, such as in the development of biocompatible materials for tissue engineering and drug delivery systems. Its strength and biocompatibility make it an excellent candidate for such advanced applications.

 

Types

It derives from the drool filament produced by silkworm, which can reach the length of 900 meters and which consists of 80 % of fibroine (protein-based material) and of 20 % of sericine (rubbery material). Manufacturing, which takes place before the breach of the cocoon and the metamorphosis from silkworm to butterfly, is aimed at separating sericine from fibroine, which will be the main component of the refined material. More manufacturing progresses and more silk becomes precious, because it goes meet a gradual scrap, which produces wastes.

On the basis of the weaving, the fabrics are divided into: canvas or taffetas, twill or diagonals, satins and jacquards. The thread count, that is its subtlety, and the twisting degree will define the quality of the fabric.

The type of fiber will instead determine its resistance: organzine, whose fiber is long and twisted, is more resistant than bourette, which is made up of wastes. Among the most renowned types, there’s the shantung (whose irregular appearance is characterized by knots on the canvas), the ottoman with canneté effect, the organza and placed and all-over prints (specialization of many Como companies).

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Clockwise: bourette, shantung, ottoman and organza.

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