The natural colors of wild silk

The natural color of the silk threads from the cocoons of wild silkworms vary in color as the result of  what they eat. Domestic silkworms, Bombix mori, prefer the  leaves of the white mulberry, but they will eat other types of mulberry leaves such as those from the red mulberry or black mulberry tree.   Domestic silkworms will also eat the leaves of  the osage orange Silkworms found in the wild however have adapted to eating particular kinds of leaves, and they produce a silk thread that is much different from the silkworms that are cultivated domestically.

Two examples of wild silkworms cocoons that are found in Java, Indonesia are from  the Cricula tritenastrata (left) and the  Atacus atlas Linn(right).  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Cricula can be found in the wild eating the leaves of the kedondong tree, and those of the avocado tree. It also eats the leaves of the mango tree the cashew nut tree, and almond tree. It produces a beautiful golden thread that is very strong and has a unique thick to thin texture that gives the cloth woven from it an incredibly luxurious hand. The color of the filament varies from cream to rich golden hues, the darkest  outside to the lightest inside the cocoon. The naturally variegated color is very durable and when woven produces a subtle variation in color that any master weaver would envy. (below)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The other type of wild silk  is from the amazingly beauitiful  Atacus  atlas Linn  silkmoth      . produces a cocoon that has a thread similar to the Cricula tritenestrata but in varying shades of cream to dark brown. It eats the leaves of the sirsak, keben, gempol, mahogony, rambutan, kedondong, avocado, and guava.


I recently visited Pak Endro Kuswardjo in Yogyakarta who started working with wild silk over ten years ago. He has developed a unique relationship with wild silk producers in West Java to provide his workshop, Tugu Mas Yogya,  with the very finest wild silk from which his master weavers can make scarves and shawls. The silk is rare and costly, so he produces a very limited number. I was fortunate  to visit on a day that he had just brought in a new supply, so there will be some wonderful examples of his silk scarves and shawls woven from wild silk available in the special exhibition “Sutera” during The Language of Cloth annual winter pop-up shop in december in San Francisco.


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