What does not burn or melt? No. Not water…silk. Since one of the fashion industry goods are clothes, why not explore the history of the materials that are used in creating those elegant Haute Couture (and not only) looks? And why not start with Silk; one of the hardest to produce, yet beautiful fibers.
While looking through the sources of silk making process and its trade we come across various legends that are considered to be the starting point of silk production. One of the most popular stories is connected with the wife of the Yellow Emperor, Leizu. Thus, as you have probably guessed, the history of silk dates back to Ancient China. While Leizu was drinking tea under a mulberry tree, suddenly silkworm cocoons dropped into her cup. *Gross. * When she tried to take them out of the cup cocoons became unwound in a long thread. Then Leizu plucked the remaining cocoons and started unwinding them. The result was a lasting material that she guessed could become a fiber. She, then, sewed clothes for her husband, after which when Huang Di (her husband) found out this discovery, he began to improve the silk production. Thanks to this discovery Leizu became known as the Goddess of Silk.
There is another legend that appears more unrealistic, however, for the sake of pure curiosity, let’s look through that one. Once upon a time a father and his daughter had a magical horse that could not only fly but also understand human language. *A good start.* One-day father went somewhere, maybe business stuff and got lost. Obviously, the daughter made a vow that if the horse would find him, she will marry him. *I thought he was friend-zoned right at the beginning, but no…* Eventually, the horse found her father. Father in its turn was so shocked after finding out about his daughter’s vow that he decided to kill this horse. When they began to flay the carcass, the skin of the horse suddenly grabbed her and took her away. *Creepy.* It was a long road: they flew until the girl did not fall on the mulberry tree. At the exact moment when the girl touched the branches, she transformed into a silkworm. She started releasing long and thin filaments, that supposed to show her mourning because of the separation.
China was keeping the secret of silk production for more than 3,000 years. The disclosure of manufacturing technologies was punishable by death. However, it did not prevent the leakage of information. There is a legend where two monks took out silkworm eggs in hollow bamboo stick to give it to the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. Another legends’ main heroine is the princess of China who was engaged to the Prince of Khotan. She was able to hide silkworm’s eggs and seeds of a mulberry tree in her hair and take them out of the China.
As I have already mentioned, there are a lot of legends and stories related to this topic. But what is so unique in this particular fabric that made China keep its production in secret for so long?
Did you know that…
- If you untangle the thread of 10 silkworm cocoons, they will be enough to entwine Everest.
- Silk is the strongest natural fiber; it can even be compared to steel with the same diameter.
- It takes 2000 cocoons to produce a single kimono.
- Thanks to thermoregulation, in the heat the silk cools down, and in the winter perfectly holds the heat.
- Silk products perfectly absorb moisture.
- To distinguish natural silk from unnatural one, you can use “combustion” test. From the burning of natural silk, an unpleasant smell appears, and if you remove the source of fire, the material stops burning, and the thread itself then crumbles to ashes.
- Silk has triangular-like prisms in its’ composition which makes the fabric shimmer.
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