I confess to being a bit suspicious of Peace Silk until very recently. I have a gentle student who objected to using regular silk in a project. I was aware of peace silk, but I couldn’t help (secretly) rolling my eyes at her objections. Sure, in the usual silk making process, the cocoons are boiled alive. They’re *bugs*. I can hardly bring myself to shed a tear for them. She ended up using linen, the result was gorgeous.
Because I respect this particular student so much, I couldn’t accept my own opinion of Peace Silk without examining it further. This also intersects with my research into sustainable, ethical fibres.
I am ashamed of my previous attitude.
Farmed silkworms eat mulberry leaves. They spin cocoons for themselves of a single silk filament. The cocoons are exposed to heat to kill the chrysalis, and the cocoons are boiled to allow the silk filament to unwind. The single filament is spun with other silk filaments to create a silk thread for weaving. That is the general outline, it varies regionally and between different operations.
The most common silk producing moth, Bombyx mori, was bred by the Chinese. They kept silk making practices a secret and bred the moths to be flightless and blind. It hardly seems like cruelty to kill something so overbred. Silk Road explains sericulture more in depth.
With the Peace Silk process, the chrysalis emerges before workers harvest the cocoon. As much as killing a bug doesn’t bother me, I don’t allow my naturalist Husband to raise cocoons only to kill the emerging butterflies or moths for that “perfect specimen.” It makes me ill and seems unsporting. I suppose I’m a little inconsistent on the bug-must-die front.
In some Peace Silk farming operations, the live moths have to be killed after they emerge to allow the population to remain stable. This is where the controversy arises about whether a silk is “Peace” silk or not.
In other operations, the cocoons are gathered from the wild, or as a complementary crop with another fibre. I think of that as “semi-wild.” This process is often touted as true Peace Silk. The cocoons come from the wild or semi-wild, and so are defacto organic as well. This is the silk I can see myself choosing to buy.
With either Peace Silk process, the producers card and spin the cocoons much like any other fibre. The emerging moth damages the cocoon and the silk strands, so silk threads can not be produced the usual way. I’m keen to explore the different texture created by this process.
True Peace Silk (or Ahimsa Silk) is ethical, cruelty free to humans (no slave labor, no child labor) as well as bugs, and supports traditional ways of life. Most are spun in homes or small village operations as they have been for generations. I find the variety of colors and textures that emerge from the wild rather interesting: