By: Dr. G. S. Nadiger*, Dr. H. L. VijayKumar**, Prof. Y. Vrashabhendrappa**,
S. N. Ramesh** and Aravind Kamthane*

*Textiles Committee, Ministry of Textiles, Govt. of India, Mumbai
**Bapuji Institute of Engineering and Technology, Davangere.

1.0 Introduction

India is the second largest producer of Mulberry and Non - Mulberry Silks, next to China. It is the only country, which produces golden yellow Muga Silk in the world. Among the Wild Silks, the Eri Silk accounts to 78.4(%) and its contribution to the total raw silk production in the country is 7.3(%) next only to Mulberry Silks. Eri culture is mainly practiced in North Eastern regions of India. The states of Assam, Nagaland, Maghalaya and Manipur account nearly 98(%) of Eri Silk produced in the country as �Endi�. The area of bordering Assam and Meghalya is considered to be the home for Eri Silkworm. It is also cultured in the states of Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh on a smaller scale. It is observed that there is vast scope for development of Eri culture on a large scale not only in traditional states but also in non-traditional states like Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh.

Eri Silk possesses excellent thermal properties and offers tremendous blending possibilities with other natural fibres like other Silks, Wool, Cotton, Jute and Synthetic fibers. The entire Cocoon production in Eri sector is available for Spinning only due to open nature of Cocoons. Development of new products and diversification in the use of available material of Eri Silk offers a lot of opportunities for innovations.

2.0 Eri fibre and its potentialities

Eri Cocoons are open mouthed; they cannot be reeled into raw filament yarn, but are spun like Cotton. Eri Silk has certain excellent textile properties, which are unique in many respects such as fineness, density, and cross sectional shape, surface properties etc. Eri Silk is finer than Muga and Tasar Silk and even softer than Mulberry Silk. Although Eri Silk possesses positive features, imparting proper twist is required to maintain dimensional stability to the fabric especially for garments.

Major portion of the Eri Cocoons are used on traditional devices like Takali (Hand Spindle) and Spinning wheels by pulling the fibre, imparting twist to it simultaneously to form the yarn. The coarse yarn so produced is normally used for production of traditional materials mainly for domestic use. The survival of handloom Silk industry with special reference to Eri silk depends primarily on the diversification of end products to meet the National as well as International demands.

Manipulating at various stages viz., Yarn, Fabric and Garment development can bring about diversification in the Eri products. Introduction of quality Silk with proper twist gives uniform texture for production of fabric. Eri Silk is the softest and warmest amongst all the Silks and has immense potential for commercial exploitation by making finest quality Blankets, Sweaters and Suiting materials. Besides, there is a good scope for Eri Silk to be used with other fibres to develop good blended materials.

3.0 Current status of processing of Eri Silk

The Eri Cocoons are open-mouthed and do not contain continuous filament form and hence are not reelable. They form a good raw material for spinning like Tasar; the cocoons vary in colour, size and softness. The soft cocoons are better for mechanical spinning and the bigger cocoons for hand spinning. The cleaning of cocoons becomes necessary in order to remove non-fibrous materials (Pupae and Moulted Skin), which get entangled with Silk fibre and for easy movement of the machinery used for spinning. So, cleaning of cocoons is pre-requisite for spinning [(Jolley) et al 1979 and Sarkar, 1980].