Silk is one of the finest materials that can be used for garment making. Because of its softness and natural sheen, it has been associated with luxury and the upper classes throughout history. Most silk comes from a moth larvae commonly known as the silkworm. Different varieties of these worms can be found in a number of countries all over the world. The type of worm that the silk is obtained from determines several of its properties. Let’s have a look at the most widespread and notable types of silk that can be produced from these amazing insects.
Mulberry silk is the main type of commercial silk available in the market today. It gets its name from a silkworm that lives and feeds exclusively on the leaves of the mulberry plant. This type of silk is the strongest natural fiber known to man and can last for many years. Its threads are also rounder and finer compared to other varieties. Moreover, it is smoother and lighter too. It is mainly used for sheets and duvets, although it is also suitable for a number of other applications. Garments made from mulberry silk are usually uniform in terms of color and texture.
One fascinating fact regarding the mulberry silkworm moth is that it is a domesticated variety of insect that has been selectively bred by humans for over a thousand years. in this way, it is much like other domestic animals such as dogs or pigs, which have an appearance and characteristics much different than their wild counterparts.
The tasar silkworm is mainly found in parts of China, and unlike the mulberry silkworm that is domesticated, this one is wild. It is the most abundant non mulberry silk type. Both the Chinese and Japanese tasar worms that produce this silk feed mainly on the leaves of oak trees. Tasar silk is easy to recognize because of its copperish color. It is this color that makes it ideal for interior decor and furnishing.
Eri silk (or Endi silk as it is also called) is obtained from the cocoons of castor silkworms. They are called castor silkworms because they are usually reared on the castor oil plant, and can be found in India, Japan, and China. Unlike other types of silk, the process of making eri silk does not involve killing the worms. Its texture can be coarse or fine, and it is mainly cream in color, although it’s not as shiny as many other types. It is also strong and quite elastic. Furthermore, it is heavier than most other types. In terms of pricing, eri silk is cheaper and can be used to make shawls, curtains, bed covers, wall hangings, and quilts. Its wooly nature means that it is also ideal for warm clothing in winter.
Muga and tasar silkworms are of the same genus. This means that the silk they produce is quite similar. However, the quantity of muga silk produced is quite small, which means that most of it is used within the areas where it is produced, such as Assam in India, where it is used to make traditional dresses.
In Africa, anaphe silk is the most common type. It is usually soft and quite lustrous. In southern and central Africa, a number of communities use anaphe silk to make velvet due to its strength and elasticity.
Not all the silk available in the market today comes from silkworms. Spider silk—as the names suggests—is made by a certain genus of spider found in Madagascar. It is not easy to produce massive amounts of spider silk. Therefore, its use is mainly restricted to cross hairs in optical instruments. Spider silk is resistant to extreme temperature and humidity.