In Search of Silk

In Search of Silk

Sensation of Silk

When I was a child there was always a fascination with the silk worm and the mulberry tree. At that stage I don’t think I found the silk fabric that interesting.  It was all about the worm and the cocoon.

Now I find silk fabric  is extremely fascinating.  The sensation of a silk shawl against my body is luxurious softness. One health benefit of Silky Kisses mulberry silk pillow cases is that they can help ease mite allergies which ensures a good night sleep. In fact it will leave your hair  in a smooth condition on awakening not a rumpled birds nest, and smooth out the wrinkles of aging skin. This maybe wishful thinking, lessening of wrinkles!!

Silky Kisses profits go to supporting the Fistula Foundation. A very worthy cause. Check out the link below.

The Beginnings of Mulberry Silk

A brief history of the orgins of  Mulberry silk. The Chinese myths suggest that the goddess of silk was Lady Hsu Ling Shih. The wife of the mythical yellow emperor who supposedly ruled china 3000 BC. The goddess was credited with introducing sericulture and inventing the silk loom.

The monopoly of silk was lost from China with migrants who began their silk trade in other countries such as India, Asia and Turkey.
For more in depth  information  please read this article link.

India and Mulberry silk.

It was a warm day in Rajasthan as I examined silk shawls handloomed and dyed in Deogarh.  They import the raw mulberry silk from Bihar, Karnataka and Andra Pradesh. I loved the feel of the silk against my hands, the colours rich and glorious. In fact was very happy to oblige the weaver by purchasing these beautiful shawls .

Mulberry Silk shawl created in Deogarh, Rajasthan.

The silk saris are astonishingly beautiful, leaving one in a state of pictorial awe. Other silk scarves I bought for Intricate Weave were gaily coloured Indian  motif scarves that I found captivating in design and colour combinations. They always add a bit of pizzazz to an outfit.

Gorgeous motif scarves discovered in Deogarh

I was very happy with my purchases.

I hurried away for the evening bullock cart ride through the back blocks of the rural countryside. A story for another time.

Morocco and Sabra (Cactus) Silk.

I followed Mohammed the weaver through the maze of walkways in the old Fes medina. Cries of balak balak (make way make way ) as the loaded donkey ambled past in the narrow walkways causing a scatter of humans. I seemed to always loose my sense of direction in the old medina. Now and then I will see a familiar land mark amongst the throng of people.

Turning down a bedraggled lane then sharp right into a low doorway finds us in the weavers workshop.
Handlooms line the workshop. Older men busily working away threading the looms amid the clakety clack of others working the looms.

Caravanserai – Camel train Inn

The workshop is a Caravanserai. These buildings were inns where people travelling in camel trains could rest safely after a days journey.
They typically look like forts with thick walls, a square plan with an entrance on the south side large enough for a camel to enter. South entrance gives the first and last light for safe arrivals and departures in the desert. The Caravanserai were located on the camel train routes, usually a days travel away.

Sahara Desert Dune Camel train

The square plan has rooms around the perimeter and the open space in the middle for the animals. In fact the Carvanserai were built to withstand sieges due to the value of the cargo in the camel trains such as silk, gold, salt.

Caravanserai Different layouts

Generations of weavers

Cactus and cotton scarf

Mohammed is a fourth generation weaver. I find it fascinating to watch the cactus silk weavers work with the hand looms. Mohammed in fact purchases the cactus silk threads from Spain. Each season Mohammed changes the pattern and colour combinations.

Agave cactus sub family Agavoideae. Sabra Silk (cactus)

Sabra silk is a natural fibre very similar to traditional silk .
The fibre is processed from the long spiky leaves of the Agave cactus which are crushed, hammered and soaked in water to separate them from the filaments. The Fibres are then spun onto spindles and either vegetable or chemical dyes are used to produce the colours.

Samples of cactus silk thread.

Treadle looms are used and the weaver must take care when weaving, due to varying thicknesses of the fiber. Sometimes camel wool, chenille or cotton yarn are used to enhance the natural sheen.

Golden Sea Silk

In my search of silk I came upon a source of the rarest silk thread, golden Sea Silk. The ladies harvest the threads from a Mediterranean Mollusk,  Pinna Nobilis,  (pen shell).

To attach themselves to sea floor and rocks the mollusk secretes a protein that reacts with seawater that hardens into a silky filament called Byssus.

The ladies closely guard the secret location of the Mollusks in caves on the coast line of Sardinia. The knowledge of harvesting and extracting the filament into silk has been handed down through generations of women. It’s a fascinating product and one day (post covid 19) it’s on my bucket list.
The link below is worth reading about the last Byssus master, Chiara Vigo.

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