How It Works
26 Silk is made from worm saliva
It’s one of the most desirable fabric materials, accounting for only 0.2 per cent of the global fibre market, but did you know silk is spun from the saliva of silkworms? Bombyx mori, or domestic silk moths, are the biological factories used in silk production. As caterpillars, when they are ready to transform into their adult moth bodies, they spin cocoons made from a sticky protein called fibroin and a bonding agent called sericin from their salivary glands in the mouth.
Winding the threads around themselves, the strands harden in contact with the air to create their metamorphic shell. This is where the fibre extraction comes in. To obtain raw silk, these cocoons are typically boiled to kill the developing moth inside and to soften the hardened cocoon and break down the binding sericin. The protein fibres can then be pulled and spun by workers to create threads used in fabric production. It takes around 6,600 silkworms to make just one kilogram of silk.