Introducing #MaterialMonday!! This post is a series of information about the story behind clothes. Our goal is to share knowledge that will help you identify greenwashing in your buying options and help you transition to products made keeping in mind sustainability and the environment. If you like this post, then do share it!
Silk is one of the luxurious plush fabrics, soft, slippery against the skin, and one of the most environmentally conscious fabrics. It is a natural protein fiber, produced from cocoons of silkworms as larvae of silkworms. The practice of silk farming has a rich history and originated from Chinese culture, but nowadays, around 60 countries produce silk worldwide with bulk production in places such as China, India, Uzbekistan, Brazil, Japan, Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam.
How is it made?
The silkworm is the reason for providing us with unique fiber which is converted into silk cloth. The attractive process in which silk is produced involves 7 stages – sericulture, thread extraction, dyeing, spinning, weaving, printing, finishing.
There is a threadlike silk material that the silkworm uses to spin on its cocoon. This substance hardens into a protective cocoon that is actually a continuous edge of silkworm saliva. Once the silkworm puts the effigy from its cocoon, it is then collected and boiled to make it soft. When the cocoon softens, it breaks further and is wound into thread and then woven into the fabric. Generally, silkworms begin to spin their cocoons when they are 28 days old which are about 2.5 “-3” long.
Is Silk Ethical?
While the process sounds harmless, there has been a lot of question raised for the ethical extraction of the silk cocoon. Traditionally, the extraction of silk from silkworms was in such a way that the processes could end the life of the worms. In 1991 in India a technique was then created that was ethical and made it possible to extract silk without killing the insects. One such form is Ahimsa silk or Peace silk, the fiber is extracted after the worm has completed metamorphosis and emerged from the cocoon. Since the cocoons are where the silk is, they wait for the moth to fly away and then start processing the empty cocoons to make the fabric. Each cocoon is checked and made sure that there are no moths inside. Ahimsa Silk was created by Kusuma Rajaiah and extensive research was commercialized after ten years. The Peace silk has a rough hand feel and is more textured than the traditional silk that is because the cocoon tends to break and requires to be repaired or patched before weaving. Hence, Ahimsa Silk embraces slub-like qualities that broken cocoon produce.
While ahimsa silk is not supposed to harm silkworms there is still a lack of transparency in the supply chain about how manufacturers operate.
HOW TO SHOP SILK
You would usually find synthetic silk alternatives made from polyester, acrylic, or viscose rayon. Buying synthetic alternatives may be right for you if the welfare of silkworms is something you are concerned about. Keep in mind that the synthetic alternatives to do not possess the same qualities of silk, but can also last a long time depending on how well you care for it.
If the welfare of silkworms is important to you, only look for peace silk, ahimsa silk, certified organic silk, or wild silk. These are harder to find at large apparel companies, so look for smaller brands to shop from.
In addition, there is a system for grading the quality of silk. Mommes (mm) is the unit used to measure silk quality. One momme equals to 4.340 grams per square meter. In general, a weight of 12-19 momme is considered to be a standard of good quality. The lower the momme, the more light and flimsy the silk fabric is. However, if you are looking for something light, perhaps a lower momme weight is appropriate.
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