Silk is known as the Queen of all textile fibres because of its sheen and luster. It is one of the most beautiful and precious fibres given to us by nature and has been very much overshadowed over the past few decades by the other natural fibres and more particularly by synthetics. Recently however its importance to textile industry has again increased. This is partly due to the current preference for natural products and the resultant increase in demand for natural fibres, especially as silk has optimum properties in terms of comfort and wearability and eco-friendly nature. The shimmering appearance for which silk is prized comes from the fibers' triangular prism-like structure which allows silk cloth to refract incoming light at different angles.
Certainly silk will never become a mass produced fibre, but it will continue to occupy its special position as a fibre for exceptionally high quality garments. The silk is gaining increasing importance day by day because of its exclusive qualities which are rarely found in any other fibres. Silk is a natural protein fiber, some forms of which can be woven into textiles. Silk is the only natural filament that man does not have to spin before it can be used for textile fabrics. The cultivation of silk is known as Sericulture. The natural silk spun by silk worms in the form of cocoons is utilized only to 50% of its production because of lack in right way of processing and deficiency in sericulture.
Silk is broadly divided as: a) Domestic silk or Mulberry silk b) Wild silk.
The wild silk has 3 varieties a) Eri b) Muga c) Tussar silk. Eri is the staple fibre and others are filament. All these species rear in the forests and known as VANYA SILKS. The wild silks are the unique products of our country.
The best known type of silk is obtained from cocoons made by the larvae of the mulberry silkworm Bombyx mori reared in captivity (sericulture). "Wild silks" are produced by caterpillars other than the mulberry silkworm and can be artificially cultivated. Over 30 countries produce silk, the major ones are China (54%) and India (14%).
A variety of wild silks have been known and used in China, South Asia, and Europe since early times, but the scale of production was always far smaller than that of cultivated silks. They differ from the domesticated varieties in color and texture, and cocoons gathered in the wild usually have been damaged by the emerging moth before the cocoons are gathered, so the silk thread that makes up the cocoon has been torn into shorter lengths.
Commercially reared silkworm pupae are killed by dipping them in boiling water before the adult moths emerge, or by piercing them with a needle, allowing the whole cocoon to be unraveled as one continuous thread. This permits a much stronger cloth to be woven from the silk. Wild silks also tend to be more difficult to dye than silk from the cultivated silkworm.
Silks are produced by several other insects, but only the silk of moth caterpillars has been used for textile manufacture. There has been some research into other silks, which differ at the molecular level. Silks are mainly produced by the larvae of insects that complete metamorphosis, and also by some adult insects such as webspinners.
Silk, known as Pattu in southern parts of India and Resham in Hindi/Urdu (from Persian), has a long history in India and is widely produced today. India is also the largest consumer of silk in the world. The tradition of wearing silk sarees in marriages by the brides is followed in southern parts of India. Silk is worn by people as a symbol of royalty while attending functions and during festivals. Historically silk was used by the upper classes, while cotton was used by the poorer classes. Today silk is mainly used in Bhoodhan Pochampally (also known as Silk City), Kanchipuram, Dharmavaram, Mysore, etc. in South India and Banaras in the North for manufacturing garments and sarees.
"Murshidabad silk", famous from historical times, is mainly produced in Malda and Murshidabad district of West Bengal and woven with hand looms in Birbhum and Murshidabad district. Another place famous for production of silk is Bhagalpur. The silk from Kanchi is particularly well known for its classic designs and enduring quality. The silk is traditionally hand-woven and hand-dyed and usually also has silver and gold threads woven into the cloth. Most of this silk is used to make saris. The saris usually are very expensive and vibrant in color. Garments made from silk form an integral part of Indian weddings and other celebrations. In the northeastern state of Assam, three different types of silk are produced, collectively called Assam silk.