What is silk? Silk is a natural fiber taken from the cocoons of silk worms. It is used to created a shimmery cloth.
The Chinese are credited for discovering the process of making silk. For more than two thousand years the Chinese kept the secret of silk making to themselves.
Silk trade was extremely important to the people of Ancient China because it was in high demand by the ancient world. They traded goods for their silk and didn’t want anyone else to know how it was made. We know that they traded their silk at least 3,000 BC! Ancient China Because silk cloth was discovered from an Egyptian mummy in the year 1070 BC.Egyptian mummy HOW DO WE KNOW?
By the 5 th century, anyone who revealed the secrets or smuggled the silkworm eggs or cocoons outside of China would be punished by death. It was the most obsessively guarded secret in history!
Many years ago, Chinese women; mothers, grandmothers, and daughters, were responsible for raising silk worms. They spent 6 months feeding and tending to the silkworms. They also dedicated their time to unraveling and spinning the silk, weaving, dyeing, and embroidery. embroidery
It is said that a Chinese monk smuggled silkworms, in a hollow stick, out of China and sold the secret to Europe. This was against the law and the punishment would be execution in the town square. How did the world discover the secret?
The Moth The Larvae The Worms The Care Cocoons Weaving and Stretching The secret of silk is revealed
First, the blind, flightless moth lays 500 or more eggs in four to six days. It dies immediately afterward.
Next, the eggs must be kept at 65 degrees F, increasing gradually to 77 degrees at which point they hatch. The larvae are like pinpoints – one hundred of them weigh only one gram.
After the eggs hatch, the baby worms feed day and night every half hour on fresh, hand-picked and chopped mulberry leaves until they are very fat.
The newly hatched silkworm multiplies its weight 10,000 times within a month, changing color and shedding its whitish-gray skin several times.
Watch very hungry silk worms eating a mulberry leaf.
Thousands of feeding worms are kept on trays that are stacked one on top of another. A roomful of munching worms sounds like heavy rain falling on the roof.
ODOR OF HUMAN SWEAT (yuck) The silkworms feed until they have stored up enough energy to enter the cocoon stage. While they are growing they have to be protected from: loud noises drafts fish smells meat smells and even the
Finally, when it is time to build their cocoons, the worms produce a jelly-like substance in their silk glands, which hardens when it comes into contact with air.
Silkworms spend three or four days spinning a cocoon around themselves until they look like puffy, white balls.
Watch a silk worm spin his cocoon in this time-lapsed video.
After eight or nine days in a warm, dry place the cocoons are ready to be unwound. First they are steamed or baked to kill the worms, or pupas. The cocoons are then dipped into hot water to loosen the tightly woven filaments. These filaments are unwound onto a spool. Between five and eight of these super-fine filaments are twisted together to make one thread.
The silk worm used one single unbroken thread of raw silk to make his cocoon. It can measure from 1000 to 3000 feet long. The single fiber is very fine and shimmery and measures about 10 micrometers (1/2500th of an inch) in diameter.micrometers It takes 2,000 to 3,000 cocoons to yield one pound of silk. Ten unraveled cocoons measure the height of Mt EverestMt Everest. That’s a LOT!
Watch how the cocoons are soaked and stretched.
Watch how cocoons are spun for use as silk thread and filaments to be made into cloth.
Chinese woman weaving with silk at a large floor loom.loom
This is a piece of cloth woven from silk threads. The threads can also be used for embroidery.embroidery
Silk was also used for musical instruments, fishing-lines, bowstrings, bonds of all kinds, and even rag paper, the word's first luxury paper.
Eventually even the common people were able to wear garments of silk. Clothes made from silk are not only beautiful and lightweight, they are also warm in cool weather and cool in hot weather.
The Chinese were also the first to paint on the silk they made. Observe the following Chinese silk paintings…
This silk painting was created during the year 221 BC.
This painting is called “Man Herding Horses” from the year 783 AD
This wall scroll was painted on silk in the year 1246.
Today, many artists still use the silk painting techniques developed by the Chinese thousands of years ago to create their own unique compositions. The following slides show us what contemporary silk paintings look like today…
How are the contemporary (modern) paintings different from the ancient paintings you looked at? Compare the use of color in the contemporary paintings and the ancient paintings. Do you think silk painting has limitations and if so what are they? Final Thoughts Comment on the following questions and email your thoughts to me at firstname.lastname@example.org@yahoo.com We are now ready to create our own silk painting. What ideas are you thinking about? Submit 2 sketches at the start of our next class.