High-quality silk requires strict standards and extreme care. To ensure the creation of exquisite silk with superior strength, sheen, and texture, it is necessary to choose the finest silkworms, manage feeding and growing conditions, use advanced reeling techniques, and implement quality control measures throughout the entire manufacturing process.
Silk has enthralled humans for generations because of its sumptuous feel and shiny appearance. In this post, we’ll set out on a quest to learn about the manufacturing procedure used to produce silk.
We will examine the different steps required to get silk from nature into our wardrobes. This includes the delicate silkworms through to the production of lovely fabric.
Did you know?
It takes approximately 2,500 silkworm cocoons to produce one pound of raw silk. Considering the delicate nature of each cocoon and the meticulous process involved in unravelling the silk fibres, it showcases the intricate and labour-intensive nature of silk production, making it a truly remarkable and valuable fabric.
The only naturally occurring filament fibre is silk, which is made from the protein fibres that silkworms manufacture. Fibroin, a protein created by insect larvae specifically for cocoon creation, makes up the majority of silk.
The larvae of Bombyx mori, also known as the domestic silk moth caterpillar, are the most frequently used among the different insect species in silk manufacturing.
Silk fabric is ideal for sensitive skin due to its remarkable features, including natural hypoallergenic and antibacterial capabilities.
Raw Materials Required for Making Silk
The silkworm, which is the larva of the silk moth Bombyx mori, is the secret to silk manufacture. It only consumes mulberry tree leaves for food. Antheraea mylitta, the only other moth species, also produces silk fibre.
This is a wild critter whose silk hair is about three times heavier than the cultivated silkworm. Its coarse fibre is called tussah.
Typically, a cocoon produces between 1,000 and 2,000 feet of filamentous silk. Between 75% and 90% of silk is made up of fibre, known as fibroin. 10% to 25% is made up of sericin, the gum secreted by the caterpillar to secure the fibre inside a cocoon.
The other components include various salts, wax, and lipids. One yard of silk fabric requires approximately 3,000 cocoons.
The Manufacturing Process of Silk
Silk is a delicate, translucent material made by silkworms. Sericulture or harvesting is the first step in silk production. There are numerous types of silkworms from which to obtain silk fibre.
However, it has been discovered that the fibre extracted from Bombyxmori larva has a marketable value.
Bombyxmori must be carefully fed to produce silk fibre, and then the cocoons must pass through the spinning process. Let’s look at the manufacturing process of silk:
Step: 1. Sericulture or Harvesting
This method of gathering various silkworms and harvesting their cocoons to gather the components required for silk manufacture is simply known as mulberry cultivation.
Producers meticulously choose mulberry leaves and arrange them in a tray.
One silkworm will be present on each leaf, and it will be permitted to eat the mulberry leaf to aid the insect’s growth.
To produce a single cocoon that produces two distinct fibres—one thin and one thick—two silkworms may occasionally be placed in a nest or leaf.
Dupioni silk is the finished product that is manufactured from it.
Silkworms cease feeding when they reach a length of three inches (7.5 cm), which takes around six weeks. During this phase, they also begin to lift their heads and get ready to spin their cocoons.
The silkworms then rotate in a figure-eight pattern around 300,000 times. The entire procedure will take roughly three to eight days.
One silkworm is predicted to produce 100 meters of silk fibre bound by sericin or natural gum.
Step:2. Stifling and Sorting
The stop the nymph inside the cocoon from setting and breaking the silk cocoon, the nymph must be killed. This process is called stifling and generally uses hot air or brume.
Cocoon can be saved longer due to dryness caused by stifling. The quality and qualities of the cocoons, such as the length, form, colour, and lustre of the silk fibre, can also be used to sort them.
Some cocoons may be supposed to be infelicitous for further processing and be thrown out. Exemplifications of cocoon blights include urine stains, earth growth, and perforations.
Step: 3. Boiling
The cocoons will be stifled once more before being heated to prepare them for unreeling. To soften them, the cocoons are placed in warm water.
Finding the end of the single silk textile fibre that makes up the cocoons is made simpler by cooking them. Additionally, it makes it simpler to relax them.
The silk is softened by boiling the cocoons, which provides another advantage. The heating of the cocoons triggers a natural silk-making process of degumming.
The process of degumming involves removing sericin proteins from silk fibres. Sericin, a gummy-like protein, wraps fibroin, the other protein found in silk.
Two strands of fibre can cling to one another thanks to sericin. However, the sericin gives silk a slightly scratchy texture, which makes it more challenging to colour.
The hard sericin protein is softened by cooking the cocoons, giving them a softer texture and feel.
Step: 4. Deflossing
After the boiling process starts, the cocoons will still have loose filaments or a fuzzy subcaste that contains uneven and broken fibres. To remove these fibres, the cocoons undergo deflossing for a cleaner look, easier coming processes, and better request value.
This step involves brushing or shelling off the subcaste by hand.
Step: 5. Reeling
The stage of the silk production process known as reeling is where silk cocoons are transformed into strands of silk yarn. Reeling is the process of unfolding the cocoon and weaving several silk fibres together into a single silk strand.
Reeling was once done manually, but it is now largely automated by machines. The machine’s rotating brushes seize the end of a cocoon’s silk filament during reeling.
The reel then rapidly unravels the cocoon while drying the silk.
A single silk beachfront is too thin to use alone. This is why multiple cocoon fibres needed reeling together to produce one beachfront of silk yarn.
Depending on the requested consistency of the silk yarn, 2 to 20 cocoons may be reeled together. Due to the thin and light nature of silk filaments, approximately 2500 cocoons are required to generate 1 pound of silk.
Step: 6. Dyeing
The skeins of silk yarn must be submerged in enormous barrels of warm water to be washed and degummed. After this process, there’s also a bleaching and drying process before the vestments are good for hanging out to dry the beautiful colour variations of the yarn.
This is ready for spinning onto bobbins. Colourings are prepared in a colour bath.
Once the colour is ready, the packets of clean vestments are also immersed in the colour bath several times over numerous days to achieve the proper colour tone and quality.
Step: 7. Spinning
To prepare for warp or weft in weaving, coloured silk skeins are first wound onto wooden or plastic bobbins using spinning wheels. Two or more weft strands are manually reeled together to create thicker silk yarn to produce heavier silk.
The weight of silk fabric increases with the number of weft yarns woven together. When describing the weight of Thai silk fabric, the term “ply”—such as “2-ply,” “4”,” and “6-ply”—is frequently utilised.
It simply refers to the number of weft threads used to weave silk fabric. More plies equate to greater thickness and decreased smoothness.
Step: 8. Weaving
By weaving threads, silk yarn is converted into silk fabric. The charmeuse technique, commonly referred to as satin, is one of the most widely used ways to weave silk.
The charmeuse weave produces lustrous and smooth silk fabric since it has a tight weave. Silk charmeuse fabrics feature a dull back and shiny front.
The lengthwise thread is floated across three or more transverse threads to create this appearance.
Step: 9. Printing
Some silk pieces need a particular pattern or design. Manufacturers do this through a process called digital printing.
Manufacturers can choose between hand-drawn or digitally- made artworks on various silk fabrics because it gives a better texture.
Step: 10. Finishing
Weaving is the last process of silk production, and the finishing step is critical because it gives the fabric its lustre.
Some chemical treatments can also help make the fabric crinkle-proof and fire-resistant.
The fabric made from natural silk has superior quality and gloss and may be used to make various goods, including garments, curtains, and pillowcases. These goods need special washing and ironing.
The wide varieties of silk vary according to the insect used in production and some additional stages. We should be happy to preserve centuries-old silk production and farming practices.
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