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We all have heard of Chinese silk, right? If you are like me, you have always wondered who in the world would have thought of using a caterpillar’s cocoon to make fine cloth. So, where does silk come from originally? Well after some research this is what I found.
There is a legend in China which tells that an ancient empress was sitting under a tree drinking tea. Then a cocoon fell from above and landed right in her teacup. The story continues by stating that as she tried to pick the cocoon out her beverage, she found that the fibers came off the cocoon, so she began to wrap the silk strands around her fingers. As she did so, she began to feel a warmth (hopefully not from the tea). When it was completely unwound, she saw a small larva. In an ‘ah-ha’ moment, the empress realized that the larva was the source of the silk and also discovered the silk threads could be used to make cloth.
Sericulture, or the practice of breeding silkworms specifically for the production of silk, may help to explain where does silk come from. It is believed that this practice is over 5,000 years old, started in China. But has since spread to India, Korea, Japan, and even some western countries.
Domestic silk moths are still being bred today, but they are very different from those moths from all those years ago. Their ancestors used to have the ability to fly, but because they have been selectively bred. Now they have lost their wings and are now earthbound.
A cocoon woven by the larva is termed as raw silk and can range from 1,000-3,000 feet in length. They are very fine fibers and have a lustrous sheen. It takes anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 cocoons to make a pound of silk. It's hard to imagine, but at least 70 million pounds of raw silk are produced each year. It requires almost 10 billion cocoons to produce this much amount.
Perhaps the legend is true about the empress sitting under a tree drinking tea. There is a similar legend about a Chinese emperor sitting under another tree and a leaf from that tree into his cup. Of course, that was a tea leaf, but the principle is the same.
Where does silk come from is not a simple question to answer. The origins have been lost in the shadows in time, but the fact remains that however it was discovered. It is one of the finest materials we have in today’s market. There are different grades and blends, but it is still used today in items. These items give your home or wardrobe the touch of class you may be looking for.
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