You may get confused looking at so many jargons around silk and their varieties. In this article we cover some of the most popular silk varieties. At Shanasaa we create beautiful scarves using some of these silks. Depending on the silk type & the method of weaving & dyeing, the texture of silk differs.
Silk is a natural protein fibre composed of fibroin at the centre surrounded by a sticky substance called sericin with traces of wax, fat and mineral salts. It comes from the cocoon of various silkworms of which the most popular is bombyx mari of mulberry.
The Mulberry Silk contributes to almost 90% of the silk commercially available where the caterpillar is reared in captivity and fed on mulberry leaves. This is known as sericulture. As it is the most commonly available silk the term silk is generally referred to mulberry silk.
Apart from the mulberry silk you will find Tussar, Eri and Muga. The Chinese Tussar is the most produced non mulberry silk. The Chinese and Japanese Tussar worms feed on leaves of oak trees and other similar species whereas the Indian Tussar worms feed on leaves of Terminalia. The threads of the Japanese Tussar have a unique greenish shade whereas the Indian Tussar threads have a rich goldenish hue to it.
Eri silk is derived from cocoons of silkworms (Philosamia ricini) that are reared on leaves of castor oil plant. In this case the moths are allowed to emerge from the cocoons and the pierced cocoons are used to spin the silk threads which maybe white or brick red in colour. As the moth is allowed to escape and is not killed this silk is also known as the Vegan silk or the Peace silk.
Muga silkworms belong to the same genus as the Tussar silkworm but produce a rich golden yellow thread which is unusually attractive and strong. This silkworm is reared only in the state of Assam, India and is used for making traditional Assamese wears. It is produced in small quantities.
Apart from these more popular four categories of silk there is Fagara, Coan, Mussel, Spider and Anaphe silk. These are mostly wild and exploited in parts of Asia and Africa.