Welcome to our Monthly
Newsletter! We hope you will enjoy this month's articles.
The topic is Silk Rugs
Cleaning Silk Fibers,
Real Silk Rugs,
and Silk Production Dilemma.
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CLEANING SILK FIBERS
NOT A DO-IT-YOURSELF-PROJECT
Cleaning silk fibers is a job that should be done by a professional. Silk fibers can be found in many textile furnishings such as rugs, upholstery, and draperies, as well as in a variety of clothing.
Silk is a luxury fiber used in the manufacture of expensive, high-fashioned products. It can be dyed and printed to produce very beautiful designs and bright shades. These properties make silk a beautiful and very desirable fiber but 'buyer beware' as we will explain below.
PROBLEMS WITH CLEANING SILK FIBERS
Silk characteristically exhibits several problems that make cleaning silk fibers very difficult. The following examples are often revealed or accentuated by normal cleaning:
SHOULD YOU CLEAN YOUR SILK FIBERS YOURSELF?
If you are considering the purchase of a textile made of silk fiber or if you already possess silk rugs or wall hangings in need of cleaning, you should be aware that do-it-yourself cleaning of silk may produce disastrous results.
In order to minimize any cleaning problems, special procedures are required for cleaning silk fibers. The choice of method depends on various factors such as the age and condition of the silk textile, spots and stains already present, and consumer expectations.
DRY CLEAN OR WET CLEAN PROFESSIONALLY?
To learn which process would be best and how to protect your silk textiles, please continue reading here.
A REAL SILK RUG?
IS MY RUG MADE OF REAL SILK?
Do you possess a real silk rug? Occasionally a client will bring an oriental rug to us for cleaning they believe is made of silk. It would be unusual, however, for that rug to actually be made of real silk. Rugs that have bright highlights are often sold as silk, but it is more likely those highlights are made from mercerized cotton or rayon.
This can be the case with certain rugs from India, China, and Pakistan, especially when sold in busy tourist markets. Unfortunately for the unwary buyer, a real silk rug can command a much higher price than other rugs.
Unscrupulous dealers may even offer guarantees in writing that the rug is silk to further mislead the buyer.
REAL SILK vs ARTIFICIAL or ART SILK
There is also some confusion when it comes to the terms 'real natural silk vs artificial silk.' Art Silk or artificial silk can be made from many different fibers, such as mercerized cotton or rayon.
The process used to mercerize cotton produces a luster and sheen, as well as increases its strength and is used in certain rugs to simulate silk.
Rayon is a man-made fiber produced from cotton or wood pulp, which also has a sheen similar to silk.
Real silk comes from only one source-the cocoon of the silkworm, either the bombyx mori, which feeds only on mulberry leaves or the wild silkworm, which feeds on oak and other leaves. (The silk from the wild silkworm is not as fine as the domesticated silkworms and their silk cannot be bleached or dyed as easily.)
SILK IS AN AMAZING FIBER
Real silk is an extremely fine fiber. It can be used to weave fabrics and rugs with extremely high knot counts. Like wool, it can hold up to 30% of its weight in water and still feel dry. Unlike rayon, it will not become weak when wet. It is resistant to some molds and mildew, as well as dry rot.
The moth that attacks wool will also be interested in silk, since silk is a protein fiber, especially if it has protein substances on it, such as food or drink, urine or animal dander. Silverfish and carpet beetles will also attack it. Long periods of exposure to direct sunlight will have a damaging effect on silk and it can be damaged by acids, bleaches, and alkalis as well.
One of the reasons why real silk rugs are not being produced in large quantities is because silk is very much subject to wear by abrasion. This makes it a poor fiber for rugs that are placed on the floor. Hereke, Turkey still produces some of the finest silk rugs.
HOW TO TELL IF YOU HAVE A REAL SILK RUG
Please continue reading here.
SILK PRODUCTION - AN ETHICAL DILEMMA?
Silk production goes on today in much the same way it did centuries ago. But there is a dark side. This process does pose an ethical dilemma to the growing number of people concerned with the humane treatment of animals, especially those exploited for monetary reasons. Even if those animals happen to be insects.
THE LIFE CYCLE OF THE SILK MOTH
The fully domesticated Bombyx mori moth, the dominant silkworm variety used for the finest silk textiles today is the same species used in silk production thousands of years ago. The process of silk production begins when the female silk Bombyx mori moths lay their eggs. Each one will lay from 200 to 500 eggs.
Today, especially in China, large silkworm farms may distribute already incubated eggs to individual silk farming households, who will have prepared a clean, dry, and well-ventilated area for them to feed and grow.
After about seven days, the eggs hatch and the silk farmers painstakingly feed the baby caterpillars around the clock with cut up mulberry leaves (the only leaves the Bombyx mori feed on). Every 3 to 5 days, the silkworm caterpillars will go into a dormant stage that lasts from 1 to 2 days.
The silkworm will go through 5 of these dormancy periods or ages, shedding their skin and multiplying in size each time, actually increasing in weight about 10,000 times. It may take a ton and a half of fresh mulberry leaves to feed enough worms to make 50,000 cocoons, which is the required amount to make one silk sari!
After the 5 ages or stages are completed, the now engorged silkworms will begin to climb cocooning frames the household has prepared for them. One silkworm caterpillar can spin long continuous strands that could stretch for miles. After spinning and sealing its cocoon, the caterpillar will morph into a pupa and, in about a week, it will change into a moth.
When the moth is ready to emerge, it can secrete a yellow fluid that will allow it to make an opening in the cocoon and it will slowly climb out. Because the domesticated Bombyx mori moth is blind and flightless, the female must secrete a hormone that will attract a male. They will mate and the process will begin again.
SILK PRODUCTION -THE DARK SIDE
But the life cycle of the majority of moths whose cocoons are used for pure silk production will be violently interrupted! Their cocoons must remain intact and the moth cannot be allowed out!
The cocoons must be 'harvested' by the family while the silkworms are still in the pupa stage. In order to prevent the pupa from becoming a moth, the cocoons must be boiled, steamed or baked in a process called 'stifling'. After stifling, the end of the silk thread is located and the cocoon is unwound mechanically or by hand.
In order to produce fine pure silk, we as humans have domesticated the Bombyx mori moth into one that is blind and cannot fly. She lays eggs once and then dies. We kill her offspring before they mature. And this has been going on for over 5000 years.
OTHER TYPES OF SILK PRODUCTION
There are other silk processes, which use different species of silkworms to produce what is known as wild silk.
The real difference between the wild silk and the domesticated silk is that the wild silk moths are allowed to breed and lay eggs. The larva then feed on leaves in trees (usually oak) and form cocoons. This eliminates the necessity of the constant hand-feeding of the larvae.
However, the cocoons are still collected by hand and go through the same stifling process as the domesticated cocoons. The silk from these varieties of moths is not as fine as the ones known as pure silk which use the Bombyx mori.
There is also a type of silk called Ahimsa Silk orPeace silk. No stifling is performed so all the moths are allowed to emerge from their cocoons and breed. This type of silk is often seen as a more ethical solution.
However, the dilemma here is the question of what happens to the adult moths, who are only allowed a brief period to mate. Then, after mating, the female moths are put into trays to lay eggs and the males are used again and again to mate. They are kept in a refrigerator in a semi-frozen state. Eventually, after their virility diminishes, they are thrown away to die a slow death. The females are crushed and put under a microscope to make sure they are not diseased. If they are found to be diseased, all their eggs will be destroyed.
Continue reading here for more information.
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