Sericulture: Rearing of Silkworm to Produce Silk

(Image to be added soon)

Natural fibres are obtained from plants and animals. Cotton, jute and flax are all plant fibres. While wool and silk are animal fibres. We get silk from silk moths or ‘silkworms.’ The rearing of silkworms for obtaining silk is called ‘sericulture’. Thus, meaning of sericulture or silk farming is the cultivation of silkworms or silk moths to produce silk. Sericulture is a very old occupation in India. India is the 2nd largest producer of silk in the world after China and Karnataka is the largest producer of silk in India.

Methods of Sericulture 

We get silk fibre from silk-worm cocoon. Rearing of silkworm for its silk cocoon to get silk fibre is very ancient. According to one legend, the story of silk began in 2640 BC. Si-Ling-Chi, a Chinese Empress, was walking around her garden while sipping a cup of tea when the cocoon of a silkworm fell into her cup. The cocoon soon began to unravel revealing a long silken fibre. When she looked up, she saw a Mulberry tree with several other cocoons hanging from it and a number of silkworms crawling around. This led her to conclude that the cocoon had come from the silkworm caterpillars. 

For 2500 years, the Chinese kept the art of making silk to themselves. They sold silk fabric but refused to reveal the secret of how the fabric was made. In spite of their secrecy, the knowledge of how to make silk reached Korea and India in 200 BC and 140 BC respectively. 

Various methods of sericulture are used for the production of silk from silkworm. Modern method of sericulture involves use of modern rotary mountage or chandrike, specific rearing house, silkworm hybrid etc. while traditional method involves collecting cocoons of silkworm on circular bamboo frame. Here we are illustrating method of sericulture by following six steps – 

Step 1. Raising silkworms and harvesting cocoons 

(Image to be added soon)

Female silkworm lays eggs on the leaf of mulberry tree. Eggs hatch about 10 days after they are laid. As the eggs hatch, they form worm like larvae. This stage of the silkworm’s lifecycle lasts for about 24-33 days. At an age of between 20 and 33 days, the appearance of the silkworm will change and it will turn yellowish and translucent. This indicates that they are ready to build a net of silk around them which is actually a liquid protein secreted from the head of silk moth or caterpillar. This silk is used as an anchor from which the worm swings back and forth to draw a long continuous fibre and build the cocoon. The fibre can be as long as 1 kilometre. Silkworms can take up to 48 hours to build a complete cocoon. At this stage silkworms are transferred in circular bamboo tray to get uniformly shaped cocoons and its easier to collect from this tray. 

Step 2. Silk thread extraction 

(Image to be added soon)

Now these fresh cocoons are ready to take them out into reeling pot. Each cocoon consists of many yards of silk thread. It is important to preserve the length of silk thread. For this cocoons are placed in boiling water to kill chrysalis and for easy unwinding of the delicate thread. 

(Image to be added soon)

Silk thread 

Step 3. Dyeing of silk 

Before dyeing threads are washed and sericin (a type of gum) is removed from the silk thread. 

(Image to be added soon)

In traditional method of dyeing Silk thread, silk thread bundle is soaked in dye pots containing hot mixture of indigo leaves for several times over many days to get the perfect colour and quality. Now a day’s modern commercial methods are used for dyeing silk threads. In these methods’ synthetic indigo and other various colour are used for dyeing. 

Step 4. Spinning of silk 

After dyeing, spinning of silk thread takes place. We are using spinning wheels for this purpose from ancient times. Still spinning wheels are used for unwinding the dyed silk threads. Although many new techniques have been introduced for spinning of silk threads. 

(Image to be added soon)

Step 5. Weaving of silk thread 

After spinning weaving of silk thread takes place. Weaving is converting wrap into a fabric by interlacing threads at right angles. A loom is used for this purpose. Now a day’s many types of machines are available for weaving of silk threads.  

(Image to be added soon)

Step 6. Binding (ikat) of silk 

Many differing patterns are made on silk fabric and used to make sarees, shawls etc. There are many types of ikat such as wrap ikat, weft ikat, double ikat and pasapalli ikat. 

(Image to be added soon)

If you want to know more about silk fibre and silkworms, then download Vedantu app and get many more such articles as your ease on your mobile phone. You can register yourself at Vedantu website as well to get free PDFs of NCERT Solutions of all subjects and study material.