Mulberry Silk is the most famous Silk around the world. But is its popularity justified? What makes Mulberry Silk different from other Silk and what makes Mulberry Silk rather expensive?
1. Where does the name 'Mulberry Silk' come from?
The production process of Silk, also called sericulture, became popular seven thousand years ago in China. Mulberry trees, being prominent in some regions of China, were a great source of food for caterpillars. After observation, the Mulberry leaves appeared to be the silkworms favourite. The local population came to this conclusion: having more Mulberry trees attracts more silkworms, hence allowing them to produce more of the precious Silk. With the outgrowing popularity of Silk in the world at the time, the production needed to be monitored and the silkworms started to be domesticated. They were totally right because the silkworms present in this area are naturally attracted by the Mulberry odorant called, cis-jasmone.
2. The silkworm feeds on the Mulberry Tree
The production process of Mulberry Silk is only possible with the help of a special species, the Bombyx Mori, or in our case the Bombay Indica, which requires a lot of attention. Even though the whole process hasn’t changed since, some countries have perfected their technique to achieve the finest Mulberry Silk. For instance, in India everything from the moisture levels, the amount of food and the temperature is monitored to achieve the most luxurious textile possible. Nowadays the worldwide experts of sericulture are China and India. Until mid 19th century Italy was a worldwide producer of Silk cocoons, too. Some families have persisted in the art of making the finest type of Silk, making Italy the first Mulberry Silk producers in Europe.
Generally speaking, the term Mulberry Silk is inspired by the local farmers who decided to exclusively use Mulberry leaves as a diet for their silkworms. Nowadays what we call Mulberry Silk, is Silk that comes from the Bombyx Mori or Bombyx Indica, having Mulberry leaves as their only food. The result of this selective diet is a light and smooth white milky colour.
3. How do we produce Mulberry Silk?
As you may know, Silk is the material used by certain caterpillars to create their cocoon. This essential step in their life cycle, is the result of days of constant feeding on Mulberry leaves. Forcing the farmers to carefully feed them only fresh Mulberry leaves, knowing that it has so much impact on the end product. During the feeding process, leading to the creation of the cocoon, all the great characteristics of the Mulberry leaves are kept (antibacterial, anti fungal, dust repellent) to create a 100% natural protein fiber. To obtain the final product, each cocoon is brushed on the surface in order to find the outside end of the filament. Individually a continuous filament part of the cocoons, can measure up to one and a half kilometers long. Keeping in mind that during this process only the inner part of the cocoon is used to create Silk. Leading to this result: about 2.500 silkworms are required to produce about 500 grams of fine Silk (the inner part of the cocoon).
4. What makes Mulberry Silk rather expensive?
The complexity of the production process doesn’t stop Mulberry Silk from being popular. But why is that? The answer is quite simple: Mulberry Silk threads are smoother, stronger and finer than any other variety of Silk in the world. Fun fact, with the same diameter Mulberry Silk is stronger than steel. Even though it is truly strong, Mulberry Silk is lower in density as cotton and wool. Giving it the ability to retain as much as a third of its weight in moisture without feeling damp. Therefore, this material doesn’t need any ‘airing out’ and will remain odorless. The Bombyx Mori caterpillar also produces a uniformly coloured cocoon containing the longest Silk threads available. A crucial trait when it comes to spinning them together, to create the finest type of Silk. Making Mulberry Silk durable and high in quality.
5. Benefits of Mulberry Silk
Each of these properties is the result of the need of Silkworms to protect itself in the cocoon. To allow its metamorphosis the caterpillar builds a fire, mite and weather resistant house. These properties are what Mulberry Silk is so luxurious. They make a feelable difference on our skin, hair and overall well-being. Being highly durable, Mulberry Silk can be compared to a luxurious cocoon made by the finest silkworms.
6. Mulberry Silk bedding and Mulberry Silk Pillowcases
What some call ‘the King of Silk’, is becoming an increasingly popular bedding material due to the natural properties. Mulberry Silk offers to create an incredibly comfortable sleeping experience. Mulberry Silk has the ability to balance our temperature and moisture throughout the night to offer an ideal sleeping climate. During metamorphosis the silkworms really needs a comfortable and undisturbed place, where they can breathe and feel warm and cosy at the same time. When it comes to sleeping, humans need the same kind of comfort. We benefit from that exact environment nature has created for them (Fun Fact: to create a standard sized Mulberry Silk pillowcase, we need 300 cocoons). But when choosing Mulberry Silk and choosing to change our sleep, we should ensure that the materials are cruelty-free and allow the silkworm to live their full life cycle.
7. Is sericulture ethical? Are Silkworms harmed in the making of Silk?
If you read through the whole article you probably know that Silk is the result of an essential part of the caterpillar's metamorphosis. Unfortunately for the conventional part of the industry, creating Silk means killing the silkworms within their cocoons. But there’s an ethical workaround to a thousands of years old process: Peace Silk or Ahimsā Silk. When choosing products respecting this principle, we save the life of silkworms. Moreover this also ensures that the Mulberry trees are grown in an organic environment and protect the environment and workers. To learn more, read on in our article: What is Peace Silk or Ahimsā Silk?
8. Can I wash 100% Mulberry Silk?
- A silk filament can be stretched about 20 percent beyond its original length before breaking.
- 2.500 silkworms are required to produce about 500 grams of fine silk.
- In rare occasions two silkworms spin a cocoon together - it is called a dupion.