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Silk is imbued with folklore and stories, the spirit of silk is rich, made so by those that have been a part of the history. From the Chinese empress Leizu who guarded the secret of the silk worms, to the men, women, and children, that travelled the silk road, one has a sense, of dedication, value, and importance from the fiber. It can be felt that it was this elemental integrity that drew Sarah to it herself.
A fiber that is strong, fine and lustrous, silk will last when taken care of, but as a natural fiber, it will return effortlessly to the earth. It could be said that silk can be both preserved or decomposed for the health of the planet. If one were to know Sarah in person, you would feel the parallel nature between her and the material she has dedicated the most part of her life to. Beyond the virtues of silk, Sarah's penchant for play, make believe and for nurturing creativity has made Sarah’s Silks a meaningful thread in the fabric of many lives.
Read more about Sarah's Silks →
In China, the knowledge of the production of silk was kept a secret. For 2000 years no other country knew how silk was made – from the cultivation of the worms to the process of weaving the fabric – everything was closely guarded. But eventually, other countries found out about the illustrious fiber, and how it was made.
Silk found its way into countries in the Middle East, Europe and North Africa like Greece, Italy, Turkey, Spain, Portugal, and France. The trade routes followed by the silk became known as The Silk Road. Today, China and India together produce more than half of the world’s silk.
The process of creating silk has changed very little since the ancient times, with improvements being made to the process to make the fiber more ecologically friendly and ethical.
This is the term used to describe the process of cultivating the silkworms and harvesting the cocoon to collect the materials.
Silkworms feed on mulberry leaves to encourage growth. It takes around 6 weeks to grow to their full potential, at which time they’ll stop eating and prepare to spin their cocoon. Attached to a secure frame or tree, the silkworm will begin spinning its silk cocoon by rotating its body in a figure-8 movement around 300,000 times! Each silkworm produces one single strand of silk, which measures over 300 feet long.
Once the silkworms have spun their cocoon, it’s time to extract the silk threads. Cocoons are placed into boiling water to soften and dissolve the gum that is holding the cocoon together. Each thread is then reeled from the cocoon in individual long threads and wound onto a reel.
Silk threads are washed, degummed, bleached and dried before the dyeing process commences.
Our silks are dyed with Jaquard acid dyes and the solvent used to make them colorfast is white vinegar. Acid dyes are considered eco-friendly, as when used in the correct proportion to the weight of goods being dyed, almost all the dye is taken up by the silk. This is called exhausting the dye bath. Since the water is almost free of dye it can be safely disposed of or even reused with a totally different shade of dye.
The spinning wheel has always been an integral part of the silk production process. Modern machines mimic the traditional spinning wheels in function. The process of spinning unwinds the dyed fibers on to a bobbin so that they lay flat ready for the weaving process.
Weaving is the process in which the final piece of silk comes together. Weaving involves interlacing sets of threads so that they lock around each other and create a strong, uniform piece of fabric.
Should a piece of silk need a special pattern or design, it will need to be printed after pre-treatment. A specialty textile printer is used to screen print designs onto the silk using eco-friendly inks, .
Silk is a circular and zero-waste fabric, with all of silk’s byproducts able to be integrated back into the local ecosystem and economy. The mulberry fruits may be eaten, the wood used for timber or fuel, the foliage fed to cattle, and extra waste used as fertilizer.
The chemical process involved in silk production has a far lower impact compared to that used in synthetics or conventional cotton production. Silk is also good for use with low impact dyes, which contributes to reducing the environmental impact of the process of fabric colouring.
Finally, silk is readily biodegradable after its useful life. It can go on to produce healthy mulch or compost, and hence soil. Silk's haemostatic properties, non-cytotoxicity, low antigenicity, and non-inflammatory characteristics have made it an increasingly popular biodegradable material.