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silk




A strong, natural fiber produced by certain insects and spiders to make cocoons and webs, a glandular secretion extruded from the spinneret and hardened into a filament on exposure to air. The fiber consists of fibroin – a tough, elastic protein – covered with sericin (gelatinous protein).

Commercial textile silk comes from the various silkworms, which feed on mulberry leaves.The cocooned pupae are killed by steam or hot air, and the cocoons are placed in hot water to soften the gum (sericin) that binds the silk. The filaments from several cocoons are then unwound together to form a single strand of "raw silk," which is reeled. Several strands are twisted together, or "thrown," to form yarn. At this stage, or after weaving, the sericin is washed away. The thickness of the yarn is measured in denier.

The Chinese were the first to use silk and its production was a closely guarded secret, since it could fetch its own weight in gold.Sicily was one of the first European production centers and the industry spread to Italy, Spain, and France. Silk manufacturing developed in England in the 17th century. China is still the largest produced of raw silk in the world.


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