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Silk

Silk

Background

Silk has set the standard in luxury fabrics for several millennia. The origins of silk date back to Ancient China. Legend has it that a Chinese princess was sipping tea in her garden when a cocoon fell into her cup, and the hot tea loosened the long strand of silk. Ancient literature, however, attributes the popularization of silk to the Chinese Empress Si-Ling, to around 2600 b.c. Called the Goddess of the Silkworm, Si-Ling apparently raised silkworms and designed a loom for making silk fabrics.

The Chinese used silk fabrics for arts and decorations as well as for clothing. Silk became an integral part of the Chinese economy and an important means of exchange for trading with neighboring countries. Caravans traded the prized silk fabrics along the famed Silk Road into the Near East. By the fourth century b.c., Alexander the Great is said to have introduced silk to Europe. The popularity of silk was influenced by Christian prelates who donned the rich fabrics and adorned their altars with them. Gradually the nobility began to have their own clothing fashioned from silk fabrics as well.

Initially, the Chinese were highly protective of their secret to making silk. Indeed, the reigning powers decreed death by torture to anyone who divulged the secret of the silk-worm. Eventually, the mystery of the silk-making process was smuggled into neighboring regions, reaching Japan about a.d. 300 and India around a.d. 400. By the eighth century, Spain began producing silk, and 400 years later Italy became quite successful at making silk, with several towns giving their names to particular types of silk.

The first country to apply scientific techniques to raising silkworms was Japan, which produces some of the world's finest silk fabrics. Other countries that also produce quality silks are China, Italy, India, Spain, and France. China was the largest exporter of raw silk in the early 1990s, accounting for about 85% of the world's raw silk, worth about $800 million. Exports of China's finished silk products were about half of the world's total at about $3 billion.

Silk is highly valued because it possesses many excellent properties. Not only does it look lustrous and feel luxurious, but it is also lightweight, resilient, and extremely strongone filament of silk is stronger then a comparable filament of steel! Although fabric manufacturers have created less costly alternatives to silk, such as nylon and polyester, silk is still in a class by itself.

Raw Materials

The secret to silk production is the tiny creature known as the silkworm, which is the caterpillar of the silk moth Bombyx mori. It feeds solely on the leaves of mulberry trees. Only one other species of moth, the Antheraea mylitta, also produces silk fiber. This is a wild creature, and its silk filament is about three times heavier than that of the cultivated silkworm. Its coarser fiber is called tussah.

The life cycle of the Bombyx mori begins with eggs laid by the adult moth. The larvae emerge from the eggs and feed on mulberry leaves. In the larval stage, the Bombyx is the caterpillar known as the silkworm. The silkworm spins a protective cocoon around itself so it can safely transform into a chrysalis. In nature, the chrysalis breaks through the cocoon and emerges as a moth. The moths mate and the female lays 300 to 400 eggs. A few days after emerging from the cocoon, the moths die and the life cycle continues.

The cultivation of silkworms for the purpose of producing silk is called sericulture. Over the centuries, sericulture has been developed and refined to a precise science. Sericulture involves raising healthy eggs through the chrysalis stage when the worm is encased in its silky cocoon. The chrysalis inside is destroyed before it can break out of the cocoon so that the precious silk filament remains intact. The healthiest moths are selected for breeding, and they are allowed to reach maturity, mate, and produce more eggs.

Generally, one cocoon produces between 1,000 and 2,000 feet of silk filament, made essentially of two elements. The fiber, called fibroin, makes up between 75 and 90%, and sericin, the gum secreted by the caterpillar to glue the fiber into a cocoon, comprises about 10-25% of silk. Other elements include fats, salts, and wax. To make one yard of silk material, about 3,000 cocoons are used.

Sericulture

Breeding silkworms

  • 1 Only the healthiest moths are used for breeding. Their eggs are categorized, graded, and meticulously tested for infection. Unhealthy eggs are burned. The healthiest eggs may be placed in cold storage until they are ready to be hatched. Once the eggs are incubated, they usually hatch within seven days. They emerge at a mere one-eighth of an inch (3.2 mm) long and must be maintained in a carefully controlled environment. Under normal conditions, the eggs would hatch once a year in the spring when mulberry trees begin to leaf. But with the intervention of sericulturists, breeding can occur as many as three times per year.

Feeding the larva

  • 2 The silkworms feed only on the leaves of the mulberry tree. The mulberry leaves are finely chopped and fed to the voracious silkworms every few hours for 20 to 35 days. During this period the wormns increase in size to about 3.5 inches (8.9 cm). They also shed their skin, or molt, four times and change color from gray to a translucent pinkish color.

Spinning the cocoon

  • 3 When the silkworm starts to fidget and toss its head back and forth, it is preparing to spin its cocoon. The caterpillar attaches itself to either a twig or rack for support. As the worm twists its head, it spins a double strand of fiber in a figure-eight pattern and constructs a symmetrical wall around itself. The filament is secreted from each of two glands called the spinneret located under the jaws of the silkworm. The insoluble protein-like fiber is called fibroin.
  • 4 The fibroin is held together by sericin, a soluble gum secreted by the worm, which hardens as soon as it is exposed to air. The result is the raw silk fiber, called the bave. The caterpillar spins a cocoon encasing itself completely. It can then safely transform into the chrysalis, which is the pupa stage.

Stoving the chrysalis

  • 5 The natural course would be for the chrysalis to break through the protective cocoon and emerge as a moth. However, sericulturists must destroy the chrysalis so that it does not break the silk filament. This is done by stoving, or stifling, the chrysalis with heat.

The Filature

Sorting and softening the cocoons

  • 6 The filature is the factory in which the cocoons are processed into silk thread. In the filature the cocoons are sorted by various characteristics, including color and size, so that the finished product can be of uniform quality. The cocoons must then be soaked in hot water to loosen the sericin. Although the silk is about 20% sericin, only 1% is removed at this stage. This way the gum facilitates the following stage in which the filaments are combined to form silk thread, or yarn.

Reeling the filament

  • 7 Reeling may be achieved manually or automatically. The cocoon is brushed to locate the end of the fiber. It is threaded through a porcelain eyelet, and the fiber is reeled onto a wheel. Meanwhile, diligent operators check for flaws in the filaments as they are being reeled.
  • 8 As each filament is nearly finished being reeled, a new fiber is twisted onto it, thereby forming one long, continuous thread. Sericin contributes to the adhesion of the fibers to each other.

Packaging the skeins

  • 9 The end product, the raw silk filaments, are reeled into skeins. These skeins are packaged into bundles weighing 5-10 pounds (2-4 kg), called books. The books are further packaged into bales of 133 pounds (60 kg) and transported to manufacturing centers.

Forming silk yarn

  • 10 Silk thread, also called yarn, is formed by throwing, or twisting, the reeled silk. First the skeins of raw silk are categorized by color, size, and quantity. Next they are soaked in warm water mixed with oil or soap to soften the sericin. The silk is then dried.
  • 11 As the silk filaments are reeled onto bobbins, they are twisted in a particular manner to achieve a certain texture of yarn. For instance, "singles" consist of several filaments which are twisted together in one direction. They are turned tightly for sheer fabrics and loosely for thicker fabrics. Combinations of singles and untwisted fibers may be twisted together in certain patterns to achieve desired textures of fabrics such as crepe de chine, voile, or tram. Fibers may also be manufactured in different patterns for use in the nap of fabrics, for the outside, or for the inside of the fabric.
  • 12 The silk yarn is put through rollers to make the width more uniform. The yarn is inspected, weighed, and packaged. Finally, the yarn is shipped to fabric manufacturers.

Degumming thrown yarn

  • 13 To achieve the distinctive softness and shine of silk, the remaining sericin must be removed from the yarn by soaking it in warm soapy water. Degumming decreases the weight of the yarn by as much as 25%.

Finishing silk fabrics

  • 14 After degumming, the silk yarn is a creamy white color. It may next be dyed as yarn, or after the yarn has been woven into fabric. The silk industry makes a distinction between pure-dye silk and what is called weighted silk. In the pure-dye process, the silk is colored with dye, and may be finished with water-soluble substances such as starch, glue, sugar, or gelatin. To produce weighted silk, metallic substances are added to the fabric during the dying process. This is done to increase the weight lost during degumming and to add body to the fabric. If weighting is not executed properly, it can decrease the longevity of the fabric, so pure-dye silk is considered the superior product. After dyeing, silk fabric may be finished by additional processes, such as bleaching, embossing, steaming, or stiffening.

Spun Silk

Not all of the silk filament is usable for reeled silk. The leftover silk may include the brushed ends or broken cocoons. This shorter staple silk may be used for spinning silk in a manner of fabrics like cotton and linen. The quality of spun silk is slightly inferior to reeled silk in that it is a bit weaker and it tends to become fuzzy. The waste material from the spun silk can also be used for making "waste silk" or "silk noil." This coarse material is commonly used for draperies and upholstery.

The Future

Sericulture is an ancient science, and the modern age has not brought great changes to silk manufacture. Rather, man-made fibers such as polyester, nylon, and acetate have replaced silk in many instances. But many of the qualities of silk cannot be reproduced. For example, silk is stronger than an equivalent strand of steel. Some recent research has focused on the molecular structure of silk as it emerges from the silkworm, in order to better understand how new, stronger artificial fibers might be constructed. Silk spun by the silkworm starts out as a liquid secretion. The liquid passes through a brief interim state with a semi-ordered molecular structure known as nematic liquid crystal, before it solidifies into a fiber. Materials scientists have been able to manufacture durable fibers using liquid crystal source material, but only at high temperatures or under extreme pressure. Researcher are continuing to study the silkworm to determine how liquid crystal is transformed into fiber at ordinary temperatures and pressures.

Where To Learn More

Books

Corbman, Bernard P. Textiles: Fiber to Fabric. 6th ed. McGraw-Hill, 1983.

Deshpande, Chris. Silk. Garrett Educational Corporation, 1995.

Parker, Julie. All About Silk: A Fabric Dictionary & Swatchbook. Rain City Publishing, 1992.

Scott, Philippa. The Book of Silk. Thames & Hudson, 1993.

Periodicals

"Chinese Exports of Silk Textiles." Daily News Record, August 23, 1994, p. 9.

Ostroff, Jim. "U.S. Textile, Apparel Firms Commend New China Pact." Daily News Record, January 19, 1994, p. 2.

Yanxi, Wang. "The Chinese Nonwovens Industry Marches towards the Year 2000." Nonwovens Industry, November 1993, p. 38.

Audra Avizienis

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Silk

Silk

R&B vocal group

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

The five-member male R&B vocal group Silk hit the music scene in 1992 with the single Freak Me from theirfirst album, Lose Control. Produced by R&B legend Keith Sweat, the record achieved multi-platinum status. Though Freak Me was a hit, the group had to virtually reintroduce itself to the R&B market when it released its third album, Tonight, in 1999.

Silk formed in the early 1990s in Atlanta, Georgia, although the five members of the group essentially grew up together. Several members of the teamTimothy Cameron (Timzo), Jimmy Gates Jr. (Jimmy), Gary Glenn (Big G), Gary Jenkins (Lil G), and Johnathen Rasboro (John John)actually went to high school together. The five friends were influenced by such acts as gospels Kirk Franklin, pop stars Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, rocker Prince and controversial rapper Tupac. Silk made a name for itself on its first outing for its catchy five-way harmonies and sexually suggestive material. They earned an ardent following in the R&B/Urban Contemporary market, particularly among women. They fit nicely into what I call the lover man category of artists like Usher, Tyrese, and Ginuwine, HMV media store urban music buyer Roberto Gooden told Billboard in 1999.

Being discovered by producer Keith Sweat was a coup for Silk. Sweat initially signed them to his own Keia record label, a subsidiary of Elektra Records, and released Silks debut album Lose Control in 1992. Sweats title of producer gave the unknown group an advance in credibility. Silk earned fans and sold records with its overt and aggressive sexuality. The record rose to number one quickly on the Billboard top R&B albums chart. The album sold 1.8 million copies and produced three R&B top ten hits in the United States, including Freak Me, which spent eight weeks at number one in 1993. Before its second release, Silk, in 1995, the group made the switch to Elektra, where they thought they could reach beyond such overtly sexual material as Freak Me, and ultimately reach a bigger audience.

On Silk, the group made a departure from its libido-based songs. But, among fans of the groups first record, the release didnt fare well. Although it did achieve gold status in sales, even Silks Gary Jenkins knew, the public may not have been ready for the change in our approach, he told Billboard in 1999. So after touring and taking some time off to regroup, Silk pulled together again to record its third release, Tonight.

Because of the different responses they received to Lose Controland Silk, the group knew they would have to consciously push their third record in the direction they wanted it to go. We felt like we needed to go back to the mind frame we had on our first record, Gary Jenkins told Billboard. The group went back to the more sexual, sensual kind of entity our fans want from us. But they felt, too, that their thirdwhile bringing back the sexual overtoneswas still a well-balanced album. Even though were know for our sexual and sensual themes, we want to show people that there are different aspects to us beyond the Freak Me[theme], Jenkins said. Gary Glenn felt the group was ready to keep working on Tonight until it felt right to them and had the makings of a strong R&B release. R&B has gone through so many different modes in the past few years, Gary Glenn said in the groups Elektra publicity material. We wanted to come out with guns blazing. We have a rear sound. Innocent in away, but we still can make the kind of record people will be making babies to, if you know what I mean.

All the members of Silk have cited gospel and strong family and moral values as driving forces in their lives. Family is important to us, Johnathen Rasboro said in the Elektra publicity material. Family and the importance of getting an education, we try to instill that in our fans wherever we go. The paradox of religion and the sexual content of their music was clear, but Jimmy Gates Jr. tried to address it. Everything has its place, he said. We sing about love and relationships. I dont think youd want to hear a Silk record if we strayed too far from what has always given R&B its strength.

For the Record

Members include Timothy Cameron (Timzo), vocals; Jimmy Gates Jr. (Jimmy), vocals; Gary Glenn (Big G), vocals; Gary Jenkins (LiP G), vocals; Johnathen Rasboro (John John), vocals.

Group formed in Atlanta, GA, c. 1990; released debut album, Lose Control, 1992; single Freak Me was number one on the Billboard R&B chart for eight weeks in 1993; released Silk, 1995; released Tonight, 1999.

Awards: Lose Control achieved multi-platinum status; Silk achieved gold status.

Addresses: Record company Elektra Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019.

To compete well in the R&B arena, Silk had to be very aware of marketing, or at least hire someone to be aware of it for them. They met Sonja Norwood, of Norwood & Norwood Management, Inc., in 1996 while on tour with Keith Sweat and Norwoods daughter, teen pop sensation Brandy. Norwood took them on before the release of Tonight in 1999. The group sought longevity in a constantly changing industry and a market that is flooded with new groups. Jenkins had a vision of how Silk wanted to model its career, he told Billboard, We look at a group like the Temptations as an example of how a group can find a niche and stick to it.

After its third release, and a conscious effort to create a sound that would fit into the sexy R&B genre and fare well with fans, the groups future looked strong. The group is coming back with a bang, Niecy Davis, operations manager at WBLX, a Mobile, Alabama, radio station told Billboard. The new single is getting a great response from our listeners because its really a chick song and their audience is mostly female, 18-34.

Selected discography

Lose Control, Elektra, 1992.

Silk, Elektra, 1995.

Tonight, Elektra, 1999.

Sources

Periodicals

Billboard, February 27, 1999; March 13, 1999.

Online

Silk, Elektra Records, http://www.webobjects.elektra.com (May 13, 1999).

Silk, CD Now, http://www.cdnow.com (April 29, 1999).

Additional information was provided by Elektra Records publicity materials, 1999.

Brenna Sanchez

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silk

silk, fine, horny, translucent, yellowish fiber produced by the silkworm in making its cocoon and covered with sericin, a protein. Many varieties of silk-spinning worms and insects are known, but the silkworm of commerce is the larva of the Bombyx mori, or mulberry silkworm, and other closely related moths. Wild silk is the product of the tussah worm of India and China, which feeds on oaks. It is now semicultivated, as groves of dwarf trees are provided for its feeding. It spins a coarser, flatter, yellower filament than the Bombyx mori, and the color does not boil out with the gum. Tussah silk is a rough, durable, washable fabric known as shantung or pongee.

Silk Manufacturing

In silk manufacture, the first operation is reeling. The cocoons, having been sorted for color and texture, are steamed or placed in warm water to soften the natural gum. They are then unwound; each cocoon may give from 2,000 to 3,000 ft (610–915 m) of filament, from 4 to 18 strands of which are reeled or twisted together to make an even thread strong enough to handle. This is called raw silk. Formerly a hand process, this work is now done in Europe and in some parts of the Orient in factories on simple machines called filatures.

The next step, called throwing, is preparing the raw silk for the loom by twisting and doubling it to the required strength and thickness. This process also is now mostly done in large mills with specialized machinery. Silk, after throwing, has three forms—singles, which are untwisted, used for the warp of very delicate fabrics; tram, two or more singles, twisted and doubled, used for the weft of various fabrics; and organzine, made of singles twisted one way, then doubled and twisted in the opposite direction, used for the warp of heavy fabrics. For sewing and embroidery thread, more doubles and smoother twists are made. In modern factories spinning frames complete the preparation for the loom.

The silk is boiled off in soapsuds to remove gum and prepare it for dyeing. For white and pale tints it must be bleached. Scouring or boiling causes loss of weight, sometimes made up by loading with metallic salts, as tin, which has an affinity for silk and can be absorbed to excess, causing weakening of the fiber. Dyeing may be done in the yarn or in the piece. Finishing processes are varying and important, as in making moires. Weaving is done as with other textiles, but on more delicate and specialized looms.

Types of Fabrics

Fabrics made are plain weaves (taffeta, pongee), cords (faille, poplin), gauzes (net malines), pile fabrics (plush, velvet), crepes, satins, damask, ribbons, and brocade. Some of these weaves are ancient, developed on the shuttle looms of China and the handlooms of India, Greece, and Europe. In Europe and Asia the handloom is still used for the finest fabrics. Japan and China lead in the production of raw silk, with India, Italy, and France following. The United States is the largest importer.

History

Sericulture (the culture of the silkworm) and the weaving of silk have been practiced in China from a remote period. Legend dates this back to 2640 BC, to Empress Si Ling-chi, who not only encouraged the culture of the silkworm but also developed the process of reeling from the cocoon. This was a closely guarded secret for some 3,000 years. Silk seems to have been woven very early on the island of Kós, which Aristotle mentions, in a vague description of the silkworm, as the place where silk was "first spun," In the 1st and 2d cent. AD silk fabrics imported to Greece and Rome were sold for fabulous prices.

Up to the 6th cent. raw silk was brought from China, but death was the penalty for exporting silkworm eggs. About AD 550 two former missionaries to China, incited by Emperor Justinian, succeeded (says Procopius) in smuggling to Constantinople, in a hollow staff, both the eggs of the silkworm and the seeds of the mulberry tree. Byzantium became famous for splendid silken textiles and embroideries, used throughout medieval Europe for royal and ecclesiastical costumes and furnishings. In the 8th cent. the Moors began to carry the arts of silk culture and weaving across the northern coast of Africa and to Spain and Sicily, and in the 12th cent. Spain and Sicily were weaving silks of exquisite texture and design.

Other areas of Europe subsequently became great weaving centers. Lucca, in N Italy, had established looms by the 13th cent., and in the 14th cent. the city became famous for its materials and designs. Florence and Venice followed and wove sumptuous fabrics and velvets enriched with gold thread. Genoa's velvets became well known. France established looms, and under Louis XIV's minister Jean Baptiste Colbert it set the fashion with its beautiful silks. Lyons in S France became an important weaving center. Early attempts were made in England under Henry VI to establish the silk industry, but it was not until the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, when many French refugee weavers fled to England, that the industry received a real impetus. The French settled in Canterbury, Norwich, and other places; but it was in Spitalfields, London, that the industry became important.

Many attempts were made to establish sericulture in the American colonies: inducements such as land grants and bounties were offered, and many mulberry trees were planted. In 1759 Georgia sold more than 10,000 lb (4,535 kg) of cocoons in London. Pennsylvania had a silk industry, fostered by Benjamin Franklin, until the Revolution. The high cost of labor seems to have been the main deterrent to the success of sericulture in America.

Bibliography

See L. Boulnois, The Silk Road (tr. 1966).

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Silk

SILK

One of the strongest and most luxurious fabrics in the world, silk has a long history. The cocoons, or casings, of the silk moth have been used for weaving fine fabric in China for almost five thousand years. The philosopher Confucius (551c. 479 b.c.e.) told the story of Empress Xi Ling-Shi, who had a silk cocoon drop from a mulberry tree into her cup of hot tea and discovered the cocoon's strong and very long silk filaments. It was the empress who, around 2640 b.c.e., organized the harvesting and weaving of these long strands into silk. (Most historians believe that this story about the origins of silk production is not based in fact, but they do not know the exact origins.)

At first the Chinese carefully confined production to their own use, but demand for the lustrous fabric of China's imperial court spread. Traders seeking silk soon created an overland route to China that became known as the "Silk Road." By 139 b.c.e. the Silk Road had become the world's longest highway, stretching from eastern China to the Mediterranean. For years it was the principal east-west trade route for goods and ideas.

The Chinese were careful to protect their secret methods, searching travelers at the borders for cocoons or eggs. By 200 c.e., however, Chinese immigrants established silk industries in Korea and Japan. About one hundred years later silk began to be produced in the Indian subcontinent. Later the silk moth was secretly exported to the Byzantine Empire (4761453 c.e.) in the Middle East by Persian monks, from present-day Iran, who smuggled the cocoons out in their hollow canes. They established a new silk industry in Constantinople, modern-day Istanbul, Turkey, under the protection of the emperor Justinian (483565 c.e.). The silk worm was only introduced to Europe in the thirteenth century when Christian crusaders (those who fought to gain control of the Holy Land from the Muslims) traveling in the Middle East brought silk weavers from Constantinople to Italy.

The silkworm is actually not a worm at all but a caterpillar. Although it is thought to be a native species of China, there are no longer any silk moths living in the wild anywhere in the world. All that exist are raised to make silk.

After the domesticated silkworms are born, they eat exclusively mulberry leaves and constantly for about a month, increasing their weight by ten thousand times and shedding their skin four times. When they have eaten enough, they begin to produce a jelly-like substance made of protein that hardens when it comes into contact with air. At the same time they produce a gum called sericin to hold the filament together. After three or four days they have spun the cocoon, which looks like a puffy white ball. In eight or nine days the cocoons are killed by steam or baking, placed in water to loosen the sericin, and unwound. The filaments average 650 to 1,000 yards long. Between five and eight of them are twisted together to make one thread.

Today China and Japan produce over half of the world's silk. Silk is known for its resiliency, elasticity, and strength.

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Silk

SILK

Fiber taken from the wrapping of silkworm cocoons.

Silk became an important textile product and luxury commodity in the Middle East from antiquity. Silk textiles came into the Middle East by trade from India and China. While Indian and Arab merchants sailed the Indian Ocean, Chinese merchants sent the fine cloth along the famous 4,000 mile (6,400 km) Silk Roadthrough central Asia and northern Iran to Europe. (Except for a few traders, rarely did any travel more than a short distance of the entire route.)

In the sixth century c.e., the Byzantines smuggled Chinese silk cocoons to Istanbul to begin their own mulberry groves and silkworm industry. Lebanon, Iran, and Iraq cultivated mulberry trees and silk-worms as well. Parts of the Ottoman Empire, Bursa and Mount Lebanon, were important centers of silk-cocoon farming, and their fine silk textiles were loomed throughout the empire for both trade and imperial use. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many Middle Eastern silk weavers lost their trade because of French intervention during the mandate period and the appearance of increasingly inexpensive silk goods that were being produced in the industrialized nations and in Asia for world markets.

see also ottoman empire; textile industry; trade.


Bibliography

Owen, Roger. The Middle East in the World Economy, 18001914. London and New York: Methuen, 1981.

Quataert, Donald. "The Silk Industry of Bursa, 18801914." In Contributions à l'histoire economique et sociale de l'empire ottoman. Louvain, Belgium: Editions Peeters, 1983.

"Silk Route." Encyclopedia of Asian History. 4 vols. New York: Scribner; London: Collier Macmillan, 1988.

elizabeth thompson

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silk

silk the type of something soft, rich, and luxurious. Recorded in Old English (in form sioloc, seolec) the word comes via Latin from Greek Sēres, the name given to the inhabitants of the Far Eastern countries from which silk first came overland to Europe.
Silk Road an ancient caravan route linking Xian in central China with the eastern Mediterranean. Skirting the northern edge of the Taklimakan Desert and passing through Turkestan, it covered a distance of some 6,400 km (4,000 miles). It was established during the period of Roman rule in Europe, and took its name from the silk which was brought to the west from China.
take silk become a Queen's (or King's) Counsel; a barrister of this rank has the right to wear a silk gown.
you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear proverbial saying, early 16th century; meaning that inherent nature cannot be overcome by nurture.

See also an ape's an ape, a varlet's a varlet, though they be clad in silk or scarlet.

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"silk." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"silk." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved April 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/silk

silk

silk A material produced by the silk glands of spiders, some insects, and certain other invertebrates (e.g. centipedes). It is exuded as a liquid by a protruding appendage, the spinneret, but quickly hardens after leaving the gland. Silk is composed of α-keratin crystals embedded in a rubbery matrix of amino-acid chains, giving the material its flexibility and strength. A spider typically has several silk glands each producing a different type of silk, with properties determined by the nature of the amino-acid matrix. The spider switches from one gland to another to produce the silk appropriate for the task. For example, the silk used for wrapping prey is softer and distinct from structural silk used for the main fibres of a capture web. The silk may also be coated with a lipid waterproofing layer, as well as fungicides and bactericides to prevent attack from microorganisms.

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"silk." A Dictionary of Biology. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"silk." A Dictionary of Biology. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/silk

"silk." A Dictionary of Biology. . Retrieved April 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/silk

silk

silk / silk/ • n. a fine, strong, soft, lustrous fiber produced by silkworms in making cocoons and collected to make thread and fabric. ∎  a similar fiber spun by some other insect larvae and by most spiders. ∎  [often as adj.] thread or fabric made from the fiber produced by the silkworm: a silk shirt. ∎  (silks) garments made from such fabric, esp. as worn by a jockey in the colors of a particular horse owner. ∎ Riding a cover worn over a riding hat made from a silklike fabric. ∎  any silklike threads that grow in plants, such as at the end of an ear of corn or in a milkweed pod. DERIVATIVES: silk·like / ˈsilkˌlīk/ adj.

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"silk." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"silk." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/silk-1

"silk." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved April 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/silk-1

silk

silk Natural fibre produced by many creatures, notably the silkworm. The many kinds of silk cloth include crépe, satin, taffeta, and velvet. Almost all silk comes from silkworms reared commercially; a single cocoon can provide between 600 and 900m (2000–3000ft) of filament. When the cocoons have been spun, the silk farmer heats them to kill the insects inside. The cocoons are then soaked to unstick the fibres, and the strands from several cocoons are unwound together to form a single thread of yarn. The Chinese were the first to use silk. Silk manufacturing developed in England in the 17th century. China is still the largest producer of raw silk.

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"silk." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"silk." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/silk

"silk." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved April 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/silk

silk

silk OE. sioloc, seol(e)c, for *siluc, corr. to ON. silki and OSl. šelkŭ (Russ. shelk), Lith. šilkaī — L. *sericum, for sēricum, n. of sēricus, f. sēres — Gr. Sêres, oriental people from whom silk was first obtained and passed through Slavonic countries into the Baltic trade.
Hence silken (-EN2) OE. seol(o)cen. silkworm OE. seolcwyrm. silky (-Y1) XVII.

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"silk." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"silk." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved April 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/silk-2

silk

silkcalque, talc •catafalque •elk, whelk •bilk, ilk, milk, silk •Liebfraumilch • buttermilk • volk •bulk, hulk, skulk, sulk

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"silk." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"silk." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/silk-0

"silk." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved April 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/silk-0