Silk Fiber Discovery, Production, Types and Unknown Facts |

Silk Fiber Brief History

Silk Fiber is known as the queen of all fiber.  It is a natural protein fiber; which has been used in textile manufacture for at least 5,000 years. About 90% of commercial silk fibers are mulberry silk.

In this blog post  we will discuss: 


  • Discovery of Silk Fiber

  • Types of Silk Fiber

  • How Silk Fiber is made

  • Silk Fiber amazing facts

  • Manufacturing Process for Silk Yarns



How Silk Fiber was discovered?


As narrates Confucius, Lei Zu; who was the wife of the Yellow Emperor Huangdi; discovered silk in 2,700 BC after a cocoon dropped into her tea; and as she attempted to pull it out; silk thread unraveled. Whether the account is true or not; Lei Zu is now renowned through China as the Goddess of Silkworms (Seini-Than).

China not only discovered silk long ago; but also pioneered silk dyeing in different colors.

During ancient times; white silk was achieved by feeding home-grown silkworms only with leaves of white (garden) mulberry during the breeding period. To get yellow silk; the silkworms were fed with Je tree (wild mulberry growing in mountains) leaves during the first half of their life; garden mulberry leaves in the second.

Ancient Chinese also used to dye fabrics using natural dye sources such as red dye from madder root; yellow from Jinzi fruits, dark red from ochre; and white from the mineral dye.


Types of Silk Fibre


We will describe the types of silk fiber focusing on two topics. These two points are, according to industrial uses and according to the silkworm.


According to industrial uses


Types of Silk Fibre

Raw silk:

It comes from the cocoon which is coated with a protective layer called silk gum, or sericin. The silk gum is dull and stiff. Silk with all of its gum is termed raw silk.

Types of Silk Fibre

Tussah silk:

Silk made from wild silkworms is called tussah silk. The natural color of tussah silk is usually not white. It has shades of pale beige, brown, and grey. It is usually coarser than cultivated silk.

Types of Silk Fibre

Bombyx-mori silk:

It is also known as mulberry silk which is produced by domesticated silkworm. It is raised on a diet of mulberry leaves almost exclusively softer, finer, and more lustrous than tussah silk. This silk produces shades of white products.

Types of Silk Fibre


Reeled silk or Thrown silk:


It is a term for silk fiber that is unwound from the silkworm cocoon. It is the finest silk. The fibers are very long, shiny and of great strength.

Types of Silk Fibre


Spun silk:

Silk made from the broken cocoon (from which the moths have already emerged) and short fibers. It feels more like cotton.

Types of Silk Fibre


Weighted silk:

When yarns are prepared for weaving, the skeins of yarn are boiled in a soap solution to remove the natural silk gum or sericin. The silk may lose from 20 to 30 percent of its original weight as a result of boiling. As silk has a great affinity for metallic salts such as those of tin and iron, the loss of weight is replaced through the absorption of metals. Thus a heavier fabric can be made at a lower price than that of pure silk. Thus it is known as weighted silk.


Types of Silk Fibre

Pure silk:

If the natural gum or sericin is removed from the silk and no further material is added to increase the weight of the fiber it is called pure silk. Pure silk is exclusively soft and possesses fine luster.


Types of Silk Worm


There are five major types of silkworm of commercial importance. It is obtained from different species of silkworms which in turn feed on a number of food plants. Except for 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.



Mulberry- Types of Silk Worm

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 the 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. These accounts for 92 % of the country’s total mulberry raw silk production.


Tasar-Types of Silk Worm

Tasar (Tussah) is copperish color. 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. It mainly thrives 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 mainstay for many tribal communities in India.


Oak Tasar:

Oak Tasar -Types of Silk Worm

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.




Also known 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 and Orissa



Muga Silk Worm

This golden yellow color silk is the prerogative of India and the pride of the Assam state. It is obtained from the 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 sarees, mekhalas, chaddars, etc.


Manufacturing Process for Silk Yarns:


Silk is a fine translucent fiber produced from the silkworm. The manufacturing process of silk starts with the rearing of cocoons. There are many varieties of the silkworm from which the silk fiber can be obtained. However, it is found that the fiber obtained from the larva of Bombyx mori is of commercial value. 

The process of cultivating the silkworm for the production of raw silk is called sericulture. The silk fiber is a continuous filament fiber consisting of the fibroin, which is connected together with the silk gum, sericin. This natural protein or fibroin is secreted from two salivary glands. 


Production of Silk Fiber Sericulture


The production of Silk Fibre- is different from that of other natural fibers. There are many steps involved in silk manufacturing.

  1. Cultivation of Cocoons (Sericulture)
  2. Filature Operations
  3. Manufacturing of Silk Yarns
  4. Finishing of Silk Fabrics

Sericulture has a long and colorful history unknown to most people. For centuries the West knew very little about silk and the people who made it. Pliny, the Roman historian, wrote in his Natural History in 70 BC “Silk was obtained by removing the down from the leaves with the help of water…”. For more than two thousand years the Chinese kept the secret of silk altogether to themselves. It was the most zealously guarded secret in history.

You may read the production of silk fiber article.


Amazing facts of Silk Fiber


1. Silk culture has been practiced for at least 5000 years in China.

2. Silkworm (Bombyx mori, Latin for “silkworm of the mulberry tree”) is technical, not a worm. It is the caterpillar of a moth.

Top 10 interesting Facts of Silk Fibre

3. The silkworm female deposits around 400 eggs at a time.

4.  The silkworm female dies almost immediately after depositing the eggs; the male lives only a short time after.

5. A pound of caterpillars eats up to 24 000 pounds of mulberry tree leaves In their lifetime. (Interesting Facts of Silk Fibre)

6. It takes up to 20 pounds of cocoons to obtain 2 pounds of silk. It requires 2,000 to 3,000 cocoons to make a pound of silk. One pound of silk represents about 1,000 miles of filament.

7. It takes more than 25 mulberry trees to obtain 6 pounds of silk.

Interesting Facts of Silk Fibre

8. The cocoon is made of a single continuous thread of raw silk around 1 kilometer (2/3 of a mile) long.

9.The silkworm grows to 25 times its size over the first 4 weeks. (Interesting Facts of Silk Fibre)

10. that a silk dress requires almost 140 pounds of mulberry tree leaves.




FAQ’S on Silk Fiber

Is silk a filament fiber?

Silk is only natural filament fiber. It is known as queen of all fiber.

How Silk Fiber was discovered?

Silk was discovered from a cup of tea in China.

What is Sericulture?

The production process of silk cocoon is known as sericulture.

What is silkworm?

The caterpillar from where we get silk fiber is known as Silkworm.

If you have any questions leave a comment below.


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