Tuesday, May 8, 2012

My visit to a silk factory

I was most impressed with what I saw at the demonstration silk factory.  It's not a real factory, it's set up to show visitors what the process is to make silk.   It was a visit that was near the end of our China trip.  I was a little overwhelmed with all the history of China.... the Ming Dynasty, the Qing Dynasty, so many Bogotas and Chinese gardens etc.   This factory tour came just at the right time.  Making fabric.... it was almost like comfort food to me.  

The demonstration started out with a refresher of the stages of development for a cocoon.  The larva, the pupa etc.  Then our guide explained and demonstrated how to tell real silk fabric from the popular polyester "silk like" fabrics.    Two ways:
  • Burn a small piece, and if it melts into a tiny ball, it's poly.  If it turns to ash, it's silk.
  • Or, with a bit of practice, with a light breath, you can lightly blow through any silk and feel the breath on the back of your hand.  Your breath will not pass through polyester fabric. 
Cocoons are graded and the single and doubles are separated.

Eight single cocoons are submerged in the steaming water and threaded into the guides. From the eight cocoons, the eight micro silk threads are pulled up and twisted together to make a single thread which is wound on a hank at the top of the photo.

A while row of spinning cocoons are taken care of by a single worker.

We learned about the single cocoons and the double cocoons, which I had never heard of.  They are very valuable.  Double cocoons are when two worms start spinning their silk too close to each other and it creates a bigger, but matted cocoon.   These double cocoons are layered in groups of 100 cocoons, then by hand, they are stretched on top of one another to make a duvet type of quilt.   I bought a queen sized duvet quilt at this factory for just over $100 and it had 10,000 cocoons.   I was floored by the number of worms that it took.   

Here's a short video of how they stretch out the pad of 100 cocoons.   It takes 100 of these to make one  duvet.

This factory did have lots of clothing and silk scarves and ties for sale, but they were rather pricey.  I was hoping they would have the thread by the spool and even some yardage to buy, but there was none.  I'm glad with the purchase of my duvet.


Linda H said...

Oh I am envious - that must have been a great tour. I hope you will share more about your trip with us...

Michelle Matheson said...

Really awesome! Great idea getting a silk duet - i imagine it is amazing! I hope we can get together soon I can't wait to hear all about China!

Lee said...

Cool video.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the education Gail. I am living vicariously through you, you know that, right?
Kathy F.

Esther said...

This is so interesting, thank you for posting. I am working with silk now, and appreciate it even more now.