Thought you knew everything there was to know about silk? Think again...
The Chinese Princess
Legend has it that silk was discovered by a Chinese Princess whilst partaking in a spot of tea in her garden. Something fell into her tea, as it loosened in the heat of the tea it turned into a long strand of what we now call silk. However ancient literature states that the Chinese Empress Si-Ling, also known as Goddess of the Silkworm apparently raised silkworms and designed the first loom to create silk fabrics. During this time the Chinese people used silk fabrics to create art and decorations as well as for clothing.
Trade and Economy
Silk became an integral trading tool for the Chinese and a major part of their economy. The silk was traded along Silk Road into neighboring countries. The Chinese were so cautious about their biggest trading tool they extended the Great Wall of China to ensure protection of the trade route.
The Chinese were very secretive about the secret to making silk, anyone who let the secret slip would be tortured! Eventually it made its way to Japan in a.d 300, apparently a Princess snuck cocoons out of the country in her over the top hairdo, as part of her dowry. The silk making process then reached India in a.d 400, Spain began producing in the Eighth Century and Italy followed a successful production 400 years later, becoming the most important producer of silk during the Medieval age.
Silk in England
James I was the first to attempt the silk process in England but unfortunately failed when the 100,000 trees planted were unsuited to his silk worms. It wasn't until the 1700's that it became successful in the Midlands, which became the centre of the English silk industry.
Nowadays China is still the biggest producer of silk, producing 58,000 tonnes in 1996, 72% of the world's production of silk that year. Modern day Silk now has many different uses from creating beautiful high-end designer dresses, to ribbons for typewriters and computers, to insulation in devices such as space vessels amongst many more. Modern day silk is also used for many medical reasons such as relief from allergies, skin and joint disorders and helps relieve hot flushes caused by menopause. It also has many beauty benefits that you can read about here.