Image: Drying scarves after printing and washing - Urban Medley
In this guest article, Shayonti Chatterji discusses Peace Silk, or Ahimsa – a cruelty-free method of producing silk.
Once only the prerogative of royalty and aristocrats, silk is the epitome of elegance. However, often overlooked is the process of making the silk yarn, where cocoons are boiled before the silkworm can hatch into a moth to maintain the length and strength of the silk fibres.
According to PETA, 3,000 silkworms are killed to produce half a kilo of silk. Boiling water loosens the sericin (glue which binds the filaments together) and fine silk filaments are extracted off the cocoon. The filaments are twisted to produce yarn which then is woven into rich silk fabric.
In 1990 Kusuma Rajaiah a sericulturist from Andhra Pradesh, India found a way to create silk yarns without in any way harming the silkworms- Peace Silk was the result.
Image: Printing onto silk - Urban Medley
Organic Peace Silk is produced from the discarded cocoon from which the silk moth is naturally released. This exposure to nature results in its truly multi-tonal look, which cannot be duplicated by machine made fabric. Despite being more expensive and time-consuming – the piercing of the cocoon results in many pieces of yarn (instead of one continuous thread) which then must be spun together to make a single thread, and the yield of silk filaments is about six times less once the cocoon is pierced – the process is more ethical, cruelty free and sustainable. It retains the purest qualities of silk.
Organic silk cultivation is a forest-based industry, and the yarn is produced in a completely untouched natural environment as the silkworms are reared outdoors on live trees of Aasan, Arjun & Sal and they do not feed on plucked leaves.
Image: Peace Silk scarf - Urban Medley
These natural silks are produced by the collaborative venture of tribal silkworm rearers, rural women spinning the yarn, and handloom weavers in the hinterlands of India. It provides employment to the disadvantaged groups living in remote areas and enables self-dependence and better living standards to these underprivileged groups.
Further reading: Alden Wicker looks at the debate about Peace Silk and other ethical textiles in 'Checks & Balances: Eco Fashion's Animal Rights Debate' in our current issue 98:Together