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What is silk?

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Silk is also known as “the queen of fibers”. It is obtained from the larvae of the silk moth that extrudes a continuous filament from their mouth to form a cocoon that is processed to remove silk fibers. Silk is a fine continuous monofilament fiber of high luster and strength and is highly valued as a prestige fiber.

The silk fiber is a result of the life cycle of the silk cocoon. There are two major varieties of silk namely, cultivated silk (Mulberry silk) and wild silk (Eri, Tussah and Muga silk). The cultivated silk is obtained from the Bombycidae variety. The cultivated silk fiber as the name suggests is produced in a carefully controlled environment. Each and every stage of cultivation is specifically monitored starting from the selection of eggs which are incubated in specially tempered rooms, followed by the mulberry plant that the silk moth feeds on, and the selection of spinner.

Mulberry silk is the most common among all kinds of silk. Mulberry silk accounts for about 90% of the global silk supply. To produce mulberry silk, B. mori silkworm is fed on the mulberry bush.

While the tussah silk is produced by tussah silkworms. This kind of silk is special because it has a distinct light golden to dark brown color and so sometimes the fabric does not require dyeing but such a color is obtained when tussah silkworm is fed on tannin-rich leaves.

Eri silk also known as peace silk is the only silk produced without harming the environment. The characteristic feature of Eri silk is that the fabric made out of them are durable and quite heavy.

However, there are certain silk fibers that are not obtained from silkworms such as spider silk and mussel silk.

Mussel silk is extracted by mussels that are found on sea beds and are also called sea silk. This silk is difficult to source because of pollution and is considered to be the most expensive silk because of its rare production.

While spider silk is spun by spiders it has less application in the textile industry since they are difficult to domesticate since they exist individually and cannot be produced in large amounts like the silk from the silkworm.

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