Silk is beautiful, highly-desirable and pricey. Do you know how
it is produced?
Silkworms are the offspring of moths . They spew out thread from tiny
holes in their jaws, which they use to spin into their egg-bearing cocoons. This entire production takes a mere
72 hours, during which time they produce between 500-1200 silken threads. These miniature, mulberry leaf-munching marvels lay, at
minimum, 500 eggs each spring, thereby increasing the number of
workers for the production line.
The ancient Chinese unearthed the
silkworm's secret, and were the first to spin the silkworm's threads
into cloth. They kept this covert,
top-secret operation, from the rest of the world by imposing the
death sentence upon those who smuggled the worm or its eggs out of
China. Eventually, however, the secret was out, and silkworms are
now farmed for their silk, in China, of
course, in Japan, in India, in France, in Spain, and in Italy. These
countries harness the power of the silkworm through a tedious,
labor-intensive, time-consuming process, a process which prominently
figures into the price of silk.
Farm workers painstakingly place the
500 plus eggs the grayish-white moth
lays, upon strips of paper or cloth, until the following spring,
when the incubated eggs hatch, and the tiny, black worms emerge.
Once hatched, workers transport the worms to trays brimming with the
worm's favorite fodder of finely
chopped, white mulberry leaves. After approximately 6 weeks, the
satiated worms begin slowly to sway their heads back and forth to
signal that show time is at hand.
Once the silkworm completes its cocoon, the farmer snatches his
cocoon from him, to prevent the shrunken
chrysalis, carefully encased inside, from hatching into a
moth in 12 days. The silk farmers ensure that this event does not
transpire, and does not kill his
moneymaking venture, by exposing the cocoons to heat, thereby
executing the chrysalis. Now, the silkworm's labor of love is
prepared for the silk production process.
The process begins by bathing the now-empty cocoons in troughs of
warm water, which serves to soften the gum binding the silken filaments together. He now proceeds with the
arduous task of unraveling several cocoons, and winding the
filaments onto a reel that twists 10-12
filaments together into a "single" thread of silk. The end product
is a skein of raw silk, which the
farmer profits from by selling to the highest bidder.
egg-bearing cocoon: 鸡蛋状的蚕茧
at hand: 即将到来