How much do you know about silk? I’ll be honest, when I first moved to Thailand in January 2019, I didn’t know much at all—and unless you work in fashion or sericulture, my guess is that you’re not a silk expert either.
But silk is an incredible natural textile that has been around for thousands of years, and it has so many benefits for both people and the planet. So today, I want to share with you 5 fast facts that I’ve learned about this ancient material!
Read on for 5 amazing things you (probably) didn’t know about silk…
1. Silk is a natural protein fiber typically made from the cocoons of silkworms.
Most of the world’s silk is made by the Bombyx mori, a domestic silkworm who feeds almost exclusively on mulberry leaves. Once the silkworm has matured, it produces a fine fiber that is wound into a tight cocoon. The fiber consists of two main proteins: fibroin, which makes up the core filament, and sericin, a gummy-like substance that holds it all together. In order to make silk yarn, the individual filaments are slowly and carefully unwound from the cocoon and reeled together to make one long, continuous strand. So undyed and untreated silk is a completely natural textile!
2. Silk was originally developed in ancient China before spreading across the globe.
According to legend, silk was originally discovered by an empress in ancient China, and was a heavily guarded state secret for thousands of years. However, as trade routes opened up, silk expanded to international markets via what was later known as the Silk Road. Eventually, other countries started learning the art of sericulture (or silk production) as well.
In Thailand, where LIYA’s scarves are produced, sericulture has become an important piece of national heritage, especially for farmers, weavers, and artisans. Silk represents both the cultural history and modern livelihoods for many people across the country, largely in rural areas. Today, silk is known as a strong, soft, lustrous fabric used in many luxury goods and materials around the world.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
3. Silk is naturally hypoallergenic and antimicrobial.
Because of the unique characteristics of its proteins, and in particular, sericin, silk fabric boasts some pretty enviable properties. For people with sensitive skin or allergies, silk is naturally hypoallergenic and unlikely to cause irritation. It’s also antimicrobial, meaning it hinders the growth of microorganisms like mold, fungus, and bacteria. Overall, it's a great choice to have in your home!
4. Silk is said to be the strongest natural textile in the world!
The proteins in silk also give it unparalleled strength—it's actually finer and stronger than Kevlar. It’s been used throughout history as a lightweight “soft armor” and was even used to make the world’s first bulletproof vest. Today, silk is still used in various applications like sutures and other medical devices. It’s still being tested in the lab, but so far, its uses seem almost limitless.
5. Silk is also naturally temperature-regulating.
Silkworm cocoons have thermal insulation properties in order to protect against significant temperature changes occurring outside the cocoon. Some of these effects are carried over into silk textiles. This means that silk can feel cool in the summer and warm in the winter, making it the perfect temperature-regulating fabric year-round!
If you have any more questions about silk, leave a comment below. I'd be happy to share more about what I've learned, and maybe even pick up some new information in the process!
And if you’re interested in grabbing a silk piece of your own, check out our silk scarf collection here.
Silk Road – HISTORY
The Future of Silk – Scientific American