Chinese legend tells the story of Empress Hsi-Ling Lo-Tsu, the 14 year old concubine of the Yellow Emperor, the Emperor who is regarded as the man that established Chinese civilization. While taking her tea one afternoon under a mulberry tree, a cocoon fell into her cup. The Empress reached in to retrieve the worm, picking up the end of the delicate silk strand. As she lifted her finger out, the silk around the cocoon began to unravel, revealing the secret of silk.
For centuries silk was cultivated, spun and weaved into textiles using the same age old techniques developed in the Neolithic Age. Artisans in embroidery passed on their skills to apprentices who spent decades perfecting methods that combined precision and artistry to create stunning embroideries with intricate details.
Silk is a natural fiber that is produced by the silkworm--the caterpillar larva of the domesticated silkmoth Bombyx mori. The cultivation of silk from silkworms is a process known as silk farming, or sericulture. Silkworms were first discovered by the Chinese around 2,700 BC and for many centuries, the Chinese were the only civilization with the knowledge to make silk but eventually, the secrets of sericulture spread to other parts of the world. Here, we explore how silk is harvested and turned into silk threads.