The raw materials behind our silk sheets, ties, and other garments are produced by silkworms—the caterpillars of fuzzy white moths. In less than a week, a silkworm can crank out a single silk strand almost a mile long. From Deep Look:
For most silkworms in captivity, this is where their journey ends. To preserve the integrity of the continuous silk thread in each cocoon, silk farmers kill the pupa inside the chrysalis by boiling, steam, or sun. Then the strands are loosened in hot water and unwound by hand using specialized spinners and silk harvesting tools. This raw silk is then gathered onto large spools and refined into commercially valuable threads. It can take up to 2000 silkworms to make one silk dress.
Today, the silk industry is valued at more than $10 billion globally, but it is more than just a luxury item. Silk is pound-for-pound stronger than steel, and it is now used in medicine to heal bones and tendons. Our five thousand year love affair with this extraordinary material continues to hold silkworms captive — until we learn to spin silk better than they can.