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8 Fascinating Facts About Silk That Not Everyone Knows: History, Production, Types and Versatility

With its origins deeply rooted in ancient Chinese civilization, silk has made an enduring impact on history. In this blog, we invite you to unravel eight lesser-known facts about silk, delving into its historical significance, production, diverse varieties, and broad-ranging uses that elevate it beyond its role in fashion.

1. The History of Silk: From Rituals to Currency

Silk, a symbol of ancient Chinese civilization, played a significant role in shaping China’s political, economic, and cultural landscapes. While its legacy is widely recognized, there are many lesser-known historical facts.

  • Do you know that silk was first used for funerals and rituals?

In ancient China, during the Shang Dynasty, silk was more than just a fabric; it was a symbol of eternal life. This belief stemmed from silkworms, which transform into butterflies and fly into the sky, representing the ascent to immortality. Thus, silk became integral to rituals and funerals, used in clothing and offerings to pray for longevity.

  • Do you know that silk was once used as currency?

Silk is not only one of the oldest commodities, it is also an ancient currency. Before the advent of metal currency, silk served a practical economic role, nearly as valuable as gold and silver. Archaeological evidence and historical records show that silk was used as currency in China and reached far into Central Asia and Europe.

2. Silk Production: Guarded Secrets and Intricate Weaving Methods

  • Strictly Confidential Silk Production Technology

By 3000 BC, the Chinese had mastered the domestication of mulberry silkworms and the silk weaving process. This technology was kept secret and controlled by China for many centuries. 

Eventually, the Silk Road opened up access to silk goods in the West, allowing for the dissemination of this textile technology. Due to the high cost of silk, Mediterranean weavers started blending silk and linen fibers for selling, which advanced Western textile technology.

  • The Secret of Warp and Weft

Imagine you were a weaver at a loom, the warp threads are running vertically in front of you and staying put, providing stability to the fabric. On the other hand, the weft threads are added horizontally by the shuttle. You can change their color and thickness to suit your design needs. Finally, beautiful silk is created by interlacing the warp and weft threads according to specific set patterns.

3. The Mystery of Momme: The Key to Understanding Silk’s Quality

Momme weight is a crucial factor in judging the quality of silk, though it’s unfamiliar to many. Momme weight reflects the fabric’s weight, which can be understood as its thickness. Generally, higher momme weight indicates a thicker fabric and often a higher price. However, this doesn’t always equate to better quality. Consider your own needs when purchasing silk, as different temperatures and silk products require varying momme weights.

4. The Types of Silk: A Brief Comparison and the Unique Case of Peaceful Silk

With its exceptional quality, mulberry silk is what many people think of when they hear the word “silk.” However, many other types offer unique textures and qualities. These variations often stem from different species of silkworms and their origin.  For example, wild silkworms produce durable silk with a more coarse texture.

One lesser-known type of silk is Eri silk, also known as “peaceful silk.” Unlike conventional silk production methods that kill the moths during the degumming process, Eri silk production takes a more humane approach. It protects the moths by boiling leftover cocoons after the moths emerge.

5. Silk Beyond Fashion: A Versatile Wonder Material for Every Industry

Silk isn’t just for fashion; it’s a versatile material with applications across various industries. From luxurious evening gowns to high-performance sportswear, silk’s natural properties make it a go-to choice. But its benefits extend beyond clothing.

Derived from natural silk, silk gel is rich in moisturizing, antioxidant, and collagen-regenerating properties, making it a common ingredient in skincare and cosmetic products.

Moreover, silk’s great biocompatibility and elasticity make it a promising biomedical material. Studies have confirmed silk’s remarkable biodegradability, making it an excellent option for medical sutures and other biomedical uses.

6. The Health Benefits of Silk: Nurturing Body with Every Thread

With its low hypoallergenic and natural anti-bacterial ability, silk is perfect for people with sensitive skin. When used in beauty products, they can promote skin metabolism, have antioxidant effects, and assist in repairing skin damage. 

In the food and healthcare sectors, silk fibroin peptides help the body process ethanol more efficiently. Research also shows sericin peptides in silk with hypoglycemic effects are potential solutions in healthy functional food or hypoglycemic drugs.

7. Silk’s Temperature Regulation: A Natural Solution for All Seasons

Silk offers remarkable thermoregulatory benefits. Let’s take silk quilts for example. The long and fine silk fibers create porosity between fibers ranging from 25% to 30%, coupled with the hollow structure of the fibers, allowing quilts to trap air. 

During colder seasons, the trapped air acts as insulation, akin to the vacuum liner in a thermos cup, effectively isolating cold air and retaining heat. As temperatures rise, the porous structure of silk fibers disperses evaporated sweat. Besides, silk’s moisture-wicking abilities come into play, which allows the fibers to absorb sweat quickly and transfer to the quilt’s surface. 

8. The Strength of Silk Fibers: A Natural Engineering Masterpiece

You may assume that silk fibers are fragile if you simply judge from their long and fine appearance. However, silk is one of the strongest natural fibers. Actually, a silk rope is stronger than a metal wire of the same thickness.

FAQs

  • Why is silk expensive?

Because silk is a scarce and labor-intensive luxury textile.

  • Why is silk important today?

First, silk has a rich history and deep-rooted tradition in the textile industry. Second, the elegance of silk makes it a top choice for high-end garments, sometimes even treasured as a piece of art. Most importantly, it is both eco-friendly and sustainable, reducing environmental impact.

  • Can vegans use silk?

Generally, vegans should avoid using silk because silk is a by-product of silkworms. However, the peaceful silk “Eri silk” offers a cruelty-free and relatively vegan-friendly option for vegans.

  • Is silk safe to use?

Of Course, silk is both hypoallergenic and anti-bacterial, making it a safe option for babies and people with sensitive skin.

Conclusion

This article reveals eight lesser-known facts about silk, which include its past, production techniques, quality indicators, and unique types. Beyond its use in fashion, silk’s versatility extends to skincare, biomedical applications, and even food and healthcare sectors. Visit Sinosilk for more information on the world of silk as well as a variety of products available.

More Resources

31 Common Types of Silk Fabric

What is Momme Silk?

Is Silk Breathable?

Is Silk Vegan?

Why Are Silk So Expensive?

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