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From a Cocoon to a Silk Thread

From a Cocoon to a Silk Thread

Unexpected resources in cocoons.

Amazing… There are no other words: did you know that one small cocoon like the ones on this picture could give birth to about 300 meters of silk threads? Unbelievable, isn’t it?

Let’s sum up. First are the mulberry trees whose leaves enable the breeding of silkworms. Then appear the cocoons. Now you might want to know how a cocoon can turn into a long silk thread. Well, this is the result of a complex and well thought-out process.

Unwinding cocoonsThe first step consists in unwinding the cocoons. Those small yellow egg-shaped silky cases are steeped in a tank of hot water in order to loosen the silk gum (also called Sericin) that holds the silk threads together, allowing them to be separated. At the beginning, they are placed in a reeling pot filled with hot water (80°C) and they are lightly brushed to unwind the coarsest threads that wrap the outside of the cocoon. When the cocoons become transparent, they are then placed into “cooler” water (60°C) to unwind the finest threads that form the heart of the cocoon.

Perhaps the most adventurous among you might want to taste worms that are still in their cocoon. You will be surprised to notice that they are actually quite tasty!

The silk threads are then wound into a hank, that is to say, the filaments are drawn upward together to form a single strand. The Sericin is removed at that point by boiling the silk in a mild alkaline solution during 45mins. The silk is then rinsed and dried. During this stage of degumming, the silk loses about 30% of its initial weight.

Now, you surely want to know what to do next with these silk threads? You think the hardest part is done? Well think again !


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