The story goes that Chinese empress Lei-tzu (wife of the Yellow Emperor Huang Di, approx 2697–2597 BC) was enjoying tea in her garden when a silkworm cocoon drifted into her cup. The hot tea loosened the filament and as she removed it, she realized it was one long strand. From there, an industry began...
When I toured China last fall, we visited a silk factory in Beijing.
Removing the larvae from the cocoon
Since I enjoy textiles, I found this to be very interesting. We saw the production process from silkworm cocoon into fabric. The machine above removes the larvae from the cocoon. (Wasting nothing, the silkworm larvae become a beer snack, and I brought some home for the DH.)
The cocoons are boiled, allowing the filament to loosen into a strand. These strands are then woven into fabric (or other methods employed). Below, we saw how a small piece of what seemed like felted silk was stretched into the size necessary for a comforter.
Stretching the silk into paper-thin layers