Friday, February 1, 2008

Silk Factory

I'd had no idea how silk was made and must admit is it pretty amazing. First the silk farmers take carefully gathered silk worm eggs and keep them warm until they hatch into worms. They pick maple leaves and place a worm on each leaf on a flat woven basket (the worms get to about 3 inches long). The worm feels like it had landed a tremendous fortune - 'I don't even have to go looking for a mulberry bush - here I've hatched right on this big leaf in this nice warm basket'. Lulled into a false sense of security some of the worms find mates and others stay single (oh yes- the single worms make the best silk!). After taking their fill of the mulberry leaves the worms decide its time to make a cocoon so they can become beautiful silk moths (enter the evil silk farmers). The poor worms make over 5,000 meters of silk in one single thread, and cosy themselves up in it for their gestation snooze. The worm couples cocoon together entwining their 5,000 meters together and make bigger cocoons. Off to the silk factory. First a lady separates large and small cocoons. The single cocoons are taken and boiled (poor silk worms meet their maker). The boiling pot is stirred with a brush which picks up the end of the silk threads. Then the silk thread of 6 cacoons is twisted together onto a big spool, ready to be died and woven. The lesser quality large cocoons are taken to a separate boiling pot and then a lady extricates the bodies of the entangled lovers and stretches their love nest over an inverted U shaped wire; then when 10 cocoons are thus stretched, they are moved to a large u shaped wire. When dried they are stretched again to the size of quilts. I was almost tempted to buy a silk quilt, but with the cover you are looking at over $200 and I'm supposed to be on a tight budget. The little silk worm bodies are not disgarded. Oil from the worm is made in to facial moisturiser and the worms themselves can be fried and eaten (Mmmmm... now I know what to order for my next Chinese meal). We looked at beautiful dresses and I thought about buying one and then I thought when am I going to wear that. Pam bought a quilt and kindly gave me the silk handkerchief she was given as a gift for her purchase. I almost bought some moisturiser but suddlenly the idea of smearing dead silk worm on my face was unappealing. On a happy note some of the worms are kept by the farmers for breeding purposes and go on to lead full and contented silk moth lives. I imagine only the couple worms are given this benefit as breeding is the main purpose of their salvation:)

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