Bombyx mori (L.)

 

Our treatment for mulberry silk here is brief, because published information on this silk and the silkmoth is virtually limitless and available everywhere.  If you want to obtain silk that represents the ancient Silk Road, buy some of the colorful ikat fabrics made in Uzbekistan, available on the internet, some of which are made in the Uzbek city of Margilan, situated on what was the original Silk Road.

The mulberry silkworm (Bombyx mori Linnaeus) was derived by artificial selection in China from the wild silkmoth named Bombyx mandarina (Moore) (see Goldsmith 2009).  The caterpillars of B. mori are white and cannot hold on to branches of mulberry, and the white moths cannot fly.  The mottled caterpillars of B. mandarina are quite different, and move about freely on the mulberry leaves and twigs.  The brown moths, which like the caterpillars are well camouflaged, fly to lights.  There are some pinned specimens of B. mandarina from Japan in the Mississippi Entomological Museum.

Textiles of mulberry silk are quite diverse.  There are rough and coarse fabrics called duppioni (doupioni), chiffon, noil, and organza.   There are smooth (“silky”) ones called charmeuse, crêpe de Chine, habutai, etc.  The white natural color of the silk takes dyes very well.  An excellent overview of types of mulberry silk, containing many swatches of the actual textiles, was published by Parker (1991).

 

 

Description: Khata (Presentation scarf) made of 100% Mulberry silk (Bombyx mori).  The Khata is used in Tibet as an auspicious symbol, and indicates good intentions of the person offering it.  Received in May 2009 by Richard S. Peigler.

Production Location: Tibet

Measurement:

Bombyx_mori_txt1
bombyx_mori_txt1cu

Description: Fabric of douppioni Mulberry (Bombyx mori) made in Cambodia.  Douppioni is characterized by slubs and rough texture.  This is also a form of "shot silk" meaning the warp and weft threads are different colors.  The brass weft is hand-reeled, and the purple warp is a very fine and uniform thrown single-ply yarn.  Bought by Richard S. Peigler in March 2009 from a seller in California who marketed it as "Cambodian tussah" but it does not contain any wild silk.  It is 100% mulberry silk.

Production Location: Cambodia

Measurement:

bombyx_mori_txt2 bombyx_mori_txt2cu

Description:Scarf of reeled mulberry silk (Bombyx mori) from India.   Hand printed colors. Hand rolled hems. Purchased in January 2009 by Richard S. Peigler.

Production Location:

Measurement:

  bombyx_mori_txt3cu

Description: Scarf of Kalahari wild silk (Gonomoeta postica, Lasiocampidae).  Cocoons from Aranos Namibia; yarn handspun in a township of Johannesburg; scarf hand-woven in Whiteriver, near Nelspruit, Mpumalanga Province, South Africa.  The warp threads are mulberry silk (Bombyx mori) and the weft yarns are natural colored silk of Gonometa postica.  Purchased by mail order in January 2009.

Production Location: Aranos, Namibia

Measurement:

Bombyx_mori_txt4 Bombyx_mori_txt4cu

 

References

Goldsmith, Marian R.  2009.  Chapter 2: Recent progress in silkworm genetics and genomics, pp.
        25–47 in M. R. Goldsmith & F. Marec, eds., Molecular biology and genetics of the
        Lepidoptera.  CRC Press/Taylor & Francis Group, Boca Raton, London, New York.  xv +
       362 pp., 8 color plates.

Krispyn, Joan W.  1978.  The silkworm Bombyx mori (Linn.) in colonial Georgia.  Journal of the
      Georgia Entomological Society 13(2): 124-128.

Murugesh Babu, K.  2013.  Silk: processing, properties and applications.  Woodhead Publishing
      Series in Textiles, No. 149.  The Textile Institute, Oxford.  xv + 182 pp.

Parker, Julie.  1991.  All about silk: a fabric dictionary & swatchbook.  Fabric Reference Series.
      Rain City Publishing, Seattle.  91 pp.