How To Make Silk
You want to know how to make silk…seriously?! The manufacturing of silk from start to finish is an extraordinarily slow and painstaking process, probably even more so than removing the hair off an epileptic rabbit one strand at a time. Follow the steps listed below, if you dare – to make silk is as expensive as it is meticulous.
- Worms. You can either buy the worms and the eggs and raise them yourself, or just buy cocoons with already-dead moths inside just for the silk. Forty bucks will get you 25 cocoons; this sounds like a lot of cocoons, but as far as silk production, it’s pretty much a couple threads in a single silk shirt.
- Feeding. If you go the way of hatching the worms yourself, you’ll need to be prepared to feed them; a diet of nothing but finely-shredded mulberry leaves will result in the finest possible silk, so you’d best have a load of these leaves ready for them. These little suckers will eat nonstop for a month and a half, and will grow to be over 10,000 times larger than they were at the time of hatching. Thankfully, humans don’t do this, or else the earth may have collapsed in on itself by now. It’s also valuable to keep in mind that silkworms relieve themselves a LOT in their containers, so be prepared to clean some noticeable messes once these things start eating.
- Pods of promise. Once the worms get fat enough, they’ll begin to build their cocoons; in order to craft a cocoon, they’ll construct one long, incredibly fine strand of filament and cover themselves in it like a wriggly spool of thread over the course of a few days. When they’re done spinning around, they’ll each be enveloped in a bit over one-half of a mile of silk thread.
- Soup or sauna. That filament is the whole reason you’ve been raising and feeding these gluttonous creatures, so be gentle with it once it’s been spun. Use hot water or steam to soften the cocoons enough that the silk threads can be unraveled off them, preferably each strand in one piece. That half-mile of silk thread sounds impressive, but remember, we’re talking about string that’s astoundingly thin. You’ll need to strip around 2,500 to 3,000 cocoons of silkworm filament to make one pound of silk, which means you’d have to sink over $4000 for the same pound of material if you bought the cocoons.
- Add a little color. Once you’ve gotten all the silk thread off the cocoons, you have to bleach and dye the thread. Most of the time, dyes are derived from natural sources (like the indigo plant). You’ve got your silk dyed, so now you have to hang it up to dry.
- Spin, spin, spin. You’ll need to spin the dried and colored skeins of silk into thicker strands. Despite advances in technology, most silk is made on a traditional spinning wheel today, and these things are noticeably larger than your average compact beginner’s sewing machine. You don’t even get full-blown silk once you’ve spun the filament – you get silk thread that’s ready to be woven. If you made it to this point, you should just sell the bloody thread rather than risk screwing it up trying to make a scarf. Otherwise, you’ll need to buy a loom to weave the spun fibers.
You may be wondering, “Do the worms die in order to successfully make silk?” And the answer is yes, they do. So if you’re opposed to killing worms slowly for the thread they produce, or you don’t want to clean up the droppings of thousands of worms every single day, don’t bother trying to make silk. If it makes you feel any better, though, the dead worms are edible and a great source or protein, so you can snack on them afterward. Really, you’d be better off just buying a silk shirt, plucking the rabbit, and calling it a day.