Silk Moth to Material

Thu January 15, 2015

From moth to material, we recently had the opportunity to see at a glance the 1-2-3s of Thai silk production. Perhaps not for the squeamish, it’s a simple but detailed natural science.

In a nutshell…

Silk moths lay about 200-500 eggs at a time.  Those little yellow specks bottom right are eggs.  The eggs hatch into tiny silk worms in approximately three weeks, and are then moved to and cultivated in flat round bamboo trays, where they are fed a strict menu of mulberry leaves.  The bigger they get the more they eat.

Silk Moths

IMG_4526      Silk Worms

Soon comes the cocoon, which is made from the saliva of the silk worm.  When the worms are ready to spin, they are removed from their feeding trays into more structured ones that make harvesting a bit easier.

These are a small example, but in large scale production these bamboo trays are actually larger than a very large wagon wheel with several rings.  After about three days the cocoons are complete.

Some are allowed full metamorphosis, and butterflies emerge to continue the cycle.   The complete process from egg to cocoon takes roughly less than a month.

Silk Worm Cocoons

Other cocoons are used for the silk.  At this stage they are placed in the sun to dry, and then placed in boiling water where the silk is extracted using traditional methods and devices that are far removed from the likes of modern technology, but clearly effective.  One cocoon produces about 500-800 meters of silk.

The silk is then dyed using natural ingredients, like saffron and coffee beans, flowers and plants, and then spun into reels for weaving.

natural ingredients used to dye silk

From there it’s woven on hand looms into the beauties we know and love, by grandmothers and mothers and daughters skilled in centuries-old techniques.

weaving Thai silk

weaving Thai silk

weaving Thai silk

weaving Thai silk

To better illustrate the process, here’s Thai silk production, in under a minute!

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