How is conventional silk and organic peace silk made?
Pictured: White Lotus Organic Peace Silk Black & Ivory Cami Set
Silk is the ultimate luxury filament occurring in nature. It found its origin in China around 2600 BC. It consists of animal protein fibres produced by various species when building their cocoons or webs. The most known species is the silkworm. Mulberry, Eri, Muga, and Tussar are the four known types of natural silk produced commercially in the world.
Pictured: Tussar silkworm called Antheraea mylitta
In the commercial silk industry, 95% of silk is produced by the Bombyx mori and the mulberry silk moth that feeds on the leaves of the mulberry plant. These silkworms are reared in unique constructed rearing houses, with shelves numbering up to ten in tiers to maximise the limited egg space.
Ethical Kind's Organic Peace Silk collection uses silk from Tussar silkworm called Antheraea mylitta that do not breed on mulberry trees but breed on local trees like Arjun and Saja. Tussar Silk, also known as "Wild silk" is rearing silkworm outside in the wild on the trees themselves. The only process done indoors is the egg-laying in earthenware pots. Once the eggs have hatched, the tiny silkworms are fed with water and tender plant leaves then taken outdoor to the food tree.
Pictured: Mixed farming organic agriculture
Mulberry silk moths usually produce conventional silk that feeds on mulberry trees leaves. As the quality and quantity of leaf provided per unit area have a direct bearing on cocoon harvest, thus cultivation uses chemical fertilisers and agricultural pesticides.
During the cultivation of organic silk, the smallholder farmers not only breed silkworms but grow different vegetables in mixed farming under organic standards. The process does not use chemical fertilisers or agricultural pesticides and results in higher quality and pureness of food trees. Organic agriculture has a positive impact on the size of the cocoon and the quality of the silk thread.
Pictured: Peace Silk where the silkworm emerges into a silk moth naturally
The first step in the conventional production of silk is "hatching the eggs". During this stage, the female silkworm lays its eggs in an artificial environment producing around 300 to 400 eggs at the time. The silkworm dies right after laying these eggs. After ten days, the eggs hatch into larvae (caterpillars), then comes the feeding period. During the feeding period, the worms get fed mulberry leaves and grow very fast. They eat around 50.000 times their initial weight. In approximately six weeks, the larvae are 10.000 times heavier than at the time of hatching and ready to spin a silk cocoon. The silkworm needs around three to eight days to spin a cocoon, thereby producing one kilometre of silk filament. Usually, chemicals (methoprene) and hormone disrupters are applied to lengthen the time they spin silk. The rearers harvest the cocoons once the pupae reach their maturity stage. In mulberry silk, the moths are not allowed to emerge out of the cocoons as this would break the thread. Thus, to kill the silkworm, the cocoons are submerged in boiled water or stifled in a hot air chamber before reeling.
In organic silk production, once the eggs are hatched, the tiny silkworms are fed with water and tender plant leaves then taken outdoor to the food tree. The larvae start eating the tree leaves. As they grow in size, they moult four times bigger. Once they mature, they start spinning their cocoons. Rearers then collect the cocoons from the tree and hang them in a controlled temperature room for the pupae to emerge out of the cocoon, the silkworm metamorphoses into a silk moth. This silk is called "peace silk" when the moth is being kept alive and can break out of its cocoon unharmed. Silk is then extracted from the cocoons by unwinding or spinning the filaments, twisting them into threads and finally weaving the silk yarn into softer silk fabrics.
Pictured: Using solar-powered machines for the spinning
Silk is a renewable resource with less impact on the environment than many other fabrics.
Organic Peace Silk substitutes the use of synthetic fertilisers with the natural compost of leaves and dung. Once the silkworm has left the cocoons, the empty cocoons are degummed. The silk glue (sericin) and the impurities are removed from the silk cocoons by either adding natural soap in boiling water or occasionally, hydrogen peroxide, which is approved by REACH & GOTS to balance the different shades of the silk yarn. The use of toxic metals (heavy metal) to make silk heavier are forbidden.
As far as possible, Organic Peace Silk production uses renewable energy sources such us solar-powered machines for the spinning, winding and plying of the yarn. New technology innovation also means organic peace silk now uses 90% less water consumption compared to the conventional silk processes.
Organic Peace silk is a more humane and sustainable way of making silk, it produces high-quality silk thread without the use of harmful chemical, pesticides and fungicides in any step of the production. The production takes longer and is more labour intensive. The luxurious fabric of Organic Peace Silk is not produced in the same volumes as commercial silk. It is slightly more expensive than conventional silk.