Zanzibar Tribal Art
offers many grades of recycled silk yarns
Our yarn is made by
people - not factories or machines!
Lifecycle of the silk worm
enlarge diagram of lifecycle
Silk is the
natural fiber produced by silk moths when making a cocoon to go
through the metamorphosis of changing from a caterpillar to a moth.
Okay, you're thinking "silk comes from a worm's butt??
... You'd be wrong! Silk is made by the silk worm's
spinnerets which are located under the animals mouth.
Make you any less grossed out?
Silk knitting yarn is made from silk cocoons. The
type of food fed to domesticated
moths determines their silk's natural color; this can be white, green
Mulberry-feeding moth Bombyz Mori, which is the principal
source of silk, is one of the largest and most handsome
moths. The male is 1/2 inch in length and the female is a
little shorter and stouter. The larva is ashy gray or cream
color and about 3 to 3 1/2 inches long. There is a
spine-like horn at the tail.
The common silk worm produces only one generation during the
year where the seasons are defined. In some areas, such as
India and China, reproduction is almost continuous. Its
natural food is the foliage of mulberry trees. The
silk glands consist of two long thick-walled sacs running
along the sides of the body, which open by a common orifice
- the spinneret or seripositor - on the under lip of the
When the larva is fully mature, it proceeds to spin its
cocoon, in which it ejects from both glands a continuous and
reelable thread of 800 to 1,200 yards in length, moving its
head around in regular order continuously for about three
days. The filament produced averages 1/1,200 of an inch in
thickness. The cocoons average one inch to 1 1/2 inches in
length. From ten to twelve days after the completion of the
cocoon, the insect is ready to escape. A perfect moth comes
forth and the sexes almost immediately couple. In four to
six days, the female lays her eggs numbering over five
hundred. With their life cycle completed, the moths soon
exception of those selected for reproduction of eggs, the
cocoons are treated to preserve them intact. The chrysalis
must be killed without damage to the cocoon. The worm spins
the cocoon with one continuous thread forming a figure
eight. Cutting the cocoon at one end to allow the moth to
escape will cut the continuous thread into thousands of
short ones. [excerpts from Encyclopedia Britannica]
Workers remove the boiled cocoons from the vat and find the
end of each strand of silk. It is then threaded overhead. A
single thread of silk can measure up to 4,000 feet in
length. This process is still done in small
cottage industries. In many production facilities, the
larvae is actually eaten! Depending on the desired
thickness of the silk fibers, these single threads of silk
will be joined with others from 3 to over 100 threads thick.
From the boiled cocoons, three strands are twisted and wound
together on large wooden wheels. In the next step,
these strands are looped onto wooden pegs at opposite
ends a large room. Twenty-five of these strands made from
three single fibers are twisted together in a hand operated
wooden machine: This results in a single strand made
up of 75 fibers, which is used for weaving. The resulting
strength is amazing. Natural dyes obtained from roots
and herbs are gathered by nomads in the countryside while
synthetic dyes are purchased. The silk threads are
boiled in huge copper vats during the dyeing process for
varying lengths of time, depending on the color desired.
Where does silk come
Geographically, Asia is the main producer of silk in the world and
90 % of the total global output. Though there are over 40 countries on
the world map of silk, bulk of it is produced in China and India,
followed by Japan, Brazil and Korea. India is the second largest
producer of silk with 17550 MT (2001-02) and also the largest consumer
of silk in the world. It has a strong tradition and culture bound
domestic market of silk. In India, mulberry silk is produced mainly in
the states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Jammu & Kashmir
and West Bengal, while the non-mulberry silks are produced in
Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Orissa and north-eastern states.
Are there different types of silk?
four major types of silk of commercial importance, obtained from
different species of silkworms which in turn feed on a number of food
plants. These are: Mulberry, Tasar, Muga, and
mulberry, other varieties of silks are generally termed as
non-mulberry silks. India has the unique distinction of producing all
these commercial varieties of silk.
The bulk of the commercial
silk produced in the world comes from this variety and often silk
generally refers to mulberry silk. Mulberry silk comes from the
silkworm, Bombyx mori L. which solely feeds on the leaves of mulberry
plant. These silkworms are completely domesticated and reared indoors.
In India, the major mulberry silk producing states are Karnataka,
Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Jammu & Kashmir which
together accounts for 92 % of country's total mulberry raw silk
(Tussah) is copperish colour, coarse silk mainly used for furnishings
and interiors. It is less lustrous than mulberry silk, but has its own
feel and appeal. Tasar silk is generated by the silkworm, Antheraea
mylitta which mainly thrive on the food plants Asan and Arjun. The
rearings are conducted in nature on the trees in the open. In India,
tasar silk is mainly produced in the states of Jharkhand, Chattisgarh
and Orissa, besides Maharashtra, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. Tasar
culture is the main stay for many a tribal community in India.
Oak Tasar: It is a finer
variety of tasar generated by the silkworm, Antheraea proyeli J. in
India which feed on natural food plants of oak, found in abundance in
the sub-Himalayan belt of India covering the states of Manipur,
Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya and Jammu & Kashmir.
China is the major producer of oak tasar in the world and this comes
from another silkworm which is known as Antheraea pernyi.
as Endi or Errandi, Eri is a multivoltine silk spun from open-ended
cocoons, unlike other varieties of silk. Eri silk is the product of
the domesticated silkworm, Philosamia ricini that feeds mainly
on castor leaves. Ericulture is a household activity practiced mainly
for protein rich pupae, a delicacy for the tribal. Resultantly, the
eri cocoons are open-mouthed and are spun. The silk is used
indigenously for preparation of chaddars (wraps) for own use by
these tribals. In India, this culture is practiced mainly in the
north-eastern states and Assam. It is also found in Bihar, West Bengal
This golden yellow color silk is prerogative of India and the pride
of Assam state. It is obtained from semi-domesticated multivoltine
silkworm, Antheraea assamensis. These silkworms feed on the
aromatic leaves of Som and Soalu plants and are reared on trees
similar to that of tasar. Muga culture is specific to the state of
Assam and an integral part of the tradition and culture of that state. The muga silk, a high value product, is used in products like
mekhalas, chaddars, etc.
view the types of
Recycled Silk Sari yarns
that we carry