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As we celebrate the upcoming Earth Day, we thought it would be great to look at interesting movement in the environmental space. Stay tuned for our article series titled “Earth Day Everyday” for stories, tips and trends related to sustainability and the environment.

Across the globe, animal rights activists to ethical fashion lovers have been convincing people to avoid leather products made from animal skin produced by killing animals. Similarly, fur is also stated as unethical, as it harms both animals and the environment. Yet with all this attention on the methods and implications of materials such as fur and leather, there is little awareness regarding the methods used to produce silk.

Did you know that in conventional methods of producing silk, around 15 silkworms are killed to produce just one gram of silk yarn?

For over four thousand years, silk has been associated with royalty and luxury. In the fashion industry, silk is associated with the affluent indulgence in haute couture. But, hidden behind the luxurious and lustrous sheen of world’s finest fabric is the killing of silk worms in the conventional method of producing silk.

The Conventional Method of Making Silk Yarn

Silk was created in China as early as 6000 BC. Subsequently, many other countries, including India, started producing the world’s finest silk fabric.In the conventional method of making silk yarn, “The silkworms are placed in bamboo baskets and fed mulberry leaves for up to four weeks. As they consume the leaves, the insects exude viscous fluids through head glands. These substances are fibroin (raw silk) and sericin (bonding gum). The substances harden upon contact with air, forming the basic silk filament, which is a combination of two fibers held together by the gum. The silkworm oozes out the fibroin continuously for about 1,000 yards, forming an oval nest or cocoon.”1 At this stage these white cocoons are dropped into boiling water with the caterpillar still inside them after which the single silk strand is unwound onto reels.

Non-Violent Silk: Breaking from that traditional method of extracting silk

After extensive research, focusing on finding more new ways to produce silk, a technique was created to produce non-violent silk without killing the silk worm. “Non-violent silk requires waiting around 10 days for the larvae to grow into moths and to make their way out of their cocoon – compared to the 15 minutes it usually takes to boil them alive. At this later stage the cocoon yields six times less filament.”2 During this process, each cocoon is checked individually to ensure that the moth has escaped/flown away before the silk thread is spun. However, because the moths break the fibers as they emerge from their cocoons, the fibers are spun into “slubby threads” instead of reeled. Therefore, this silk is more delicate than reeled silk, and it is softer and more lightweight.

With this technique, silk production takes a longer amount of time and produces less silk yarn, and therefore, it is more expensive than conventionally made silk. Nevertheless, environmentally-conscious silk producers are now producing non-violent silk and it is a great option for eco-friendly consumers.

Techniques of Making Piece of Silk (Conventional) Vs.Peace Silk (Non-Violent Silk)

Non-violent silk is often called Peace silk as it is cruelty-free

Whether it is conventionally-made silk or non-violent silk, the silk industry is providing livelihoods to millions of producers and supporting the handloom industries in many countries,such as India and Bangladesh. At Shopanthropic, we carry silk scarves and stoles made from both methods, conventional and non-violent, and our entire collection is hand-loomed and ethically-made.

Take a look at our newly launched Silk & Coco collection. Created by artisans in Bangladesh, this collection features 7 pieces made of various materials including non-violent silk, coconut fibre, and jute: http://shopanthropic.com/sa/category/49-silk-coco-collection.aspx.

1. http://www.ahimsasilks.com/aboutus1.htm
2. http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2011/01/04/taking-the-violence-out-of-silk/