Silk and sericulture, the practice of breeding silkworms for the production of raw silk, has been under way for at least 5,000 years in China. From there it spread to India, Korea, Japan and the West. Today China is by far the largest producer globally, with 60% of world market share. This is why our Lune & Soleil masks are made in SUZHOU, Jiangsu, China, by our partner factory with centuries of silk making history and one of the largest farms following the highest standards of ontological certification (OEKO-TEX 100 - EU Ecological Textile Certification). All research, design and development is home grown in Singapore.
The silk moth, Bombyx mori, used in today's silk production was domesticated from the wild silk moth Bombyx mandarina over centuries. The silkworm is the caterpillar of the moth and its preferred and mostly only food are the leaves of the white mulberry. Fun fact about the mulberry tree - It is known for the fastest known movement in the plant kingdom through its pollen release from its catkins at approximately 560 km/h (over half the speed of sound!).
The moth will emerge from its cocoon at dawn by secreting a special spit so that the silk can be dissolved and the moth can emerge. Their wings will be wrinkled before the air puffs them up in an hour. Silk moths have a wingspan of 3–5 cm and a white, hairy body. Females are about two to three times bulkier than males (they carry over 300 eggs), but are similarly colored. They cannot eat or drink, but they go on to mate for 1 day before laying eggs and dying 5 days later for the cycle to continue afresh.
Egg and Silkworm
The female moth lays around 350 eggs, mostly the size of small dots. The eggs hatch after around 10 days and a hairy silkworm arises. They feed on large amounts of mulberry leaves for around 30 days. For comparison, to feed 25 silkworms from egg to the cocoon stage a 3m tall mulberry tree will be required to provide enough leaves! During that process it attains a maximum length of 75mm after four molts where it changes its skin to grow over 10,000 times.
Cocoon and Pupation
Pupation occurs when the silkworm starts to spin a protective cocoon around itself in around 3 days. It is the size of a small cotton ball and is made of a single thread of silk by the silkworm working in a figure 8 pattern around itself. The silk used informing the cocoon is actually hardened silkworm salvia that has been secreted from the silkworm’s mouth. The fibers are very fine and luscious, about 0.01 mm in diameter and the whole single strand of silk is an astonishing 1,000m long!
The silk is a continuous filament comprising fibroin protein and held together by a gum called sericin, which cements the filaments. The sericin is removed by placing the cocoons in hot water, which frees the silk filaments and readies them for reeling. The silk filaments are then wound on a reel and combined to threads of up to 48 individual silk filaments. About 5,000 cocoons are required to make 1kg of silk showcasing the luxurious nature of the product - treasure the silk product you wear!