Eri Silk: The World's Sustainable Silk

Eri Silk Moth and Cocoon
Eri silk is a protein fibre derived from cocoons made by the Samia Cynthia Ricini moth or Philosamia Ricini moth. It is 100% natural and is one of the four major silks being produced. Predominantly found in Meghalaya and other northeast states of India it is also considered a Vanya (wild) silk.

Eri silk yarn has some unique properties hence why it is known as an all-weather fibre. The Isothermal properties of Eri silk makes it cool in summer and its thermal properties make it warm in winter. The process of producing Eri silk yarns and fibres in the villages has the smallest carbon footprint in the world in the textile industry.

Another unique factor is that all activities from rearing of the silkworms to weaving happens within a village ecosystem. Unlike other textile fibres Eri silk production resembles a model of a circular economy.

Eri silk is mostly used in weaving in India’s Northeast region, but has great potential in knitting, crochet, and embroidery. Due to its staple (short) fibre makeup requiring it to be spun and not reeled. In addition it has a woolly texture or a cotton-like behaviour and is heavier than other silks.

Its natural properties make it gentle on the skin and doesn’t cause irritation or itchiness. Eri silk is hydrophilic, a fibre that loves water and can absorbs it well. It is well known to be the most absorbent silk that works very well with natural dyes.

How Do We Compare Eri Silk With Other Silk?

Right from the raising of silkworms, food, cocoons, processing and usage is a different process compared to other silk. Let’s look at the comparative table below between Mulberry silk and Eri silk.

Mulberry Silk Vs Eri Silk

 Mulberry Silk Vs Eri Silk
ERI SILK YARN (LEFT) LOOKS MORE LIKE COTTON, WHEREAS MULBERRY SILK YARN (RIGHT) LOOKS SILKY AND HAS A SHINY TEXTURE.

 

Mulberry Silk

Eri Silk

Come from the cocoons of Bombyx Mori moth

Come from Samia Cynthia Ricini moth or Philosomia Ricini moth

Before the moths emerge, cocoons are boiled for degumming- thus killing them

Cocoons are boiled after the moths emerge.  Hence called Peace Silk

The caterpillars eat only mulberry leaves

Caterpillars prefer castor leaves, but also eat Kessaru and Tapioca (or Cassava) leaves.

Leaves need to be cultivated

These leaves grow in the wild.

Cocoons are uniform, small and white in colour.

Cocoons are large and uneven. Can be white, off-white, or reddish colour

The yarn is not suitable to crochet

The yarn can be used to crochet

The clothes are both hand-woven and made by machines

Cloth is largely made by hand. It continues to be a cottage industry

Silk cloth is soft, but needs extra care

Silk cloth has a cotton, matte-like finish, with a silky touch, sturdy and easy to maintain.

The mulberry silk tends to generate static electricity

Does not generate static electricity, and so the cloth will not stick to your body.

Less breathable fabric than Eri silk.

More breathable fabric

Has thermal properties – Cool in summer and warm in winter.

Has better thermal properties than mulberry silk.

A highly commercialized industry

A cottage industry mostly using natural dyes.

Considered a luxury material. Consumed more by the well to do.

Is widely used even now by the local communities. across economic strata. It is not cheap, but the products are treasured.

Eri silk Rearing process
Process of Rearing Eri Silk

The process of rearing Eri silk is still small scale done in homes of rearers in the villages. Eri silkworms can be fed Castor leaves, Tapioca leaves and Payam leaves, which are perennial in nature and require low maintenance. Although the Eri silkworm is known to feed on the leaves of different plant species, Castor is usually the preferred food.

The cycle from an egg to cocoon takes around 50 days!

  • Eri silkworms continue feeding on the castor leaves and they also excrete body wastes at the same time. During the growth process, their colour changes from a yellow into a green-yellow colour before they are ready to spin their cocoons.
  • After 20-22 days, the process of spinning the cocoon begins. The Eri silkworm emerges as a moth from its cocoon after three weeks. Eri silk cocoons are open-ended, hence the moth emerges out by itself. After the moth leaves the cocoon, the empty cocoons are collected to harvest the silk fibres.

Degumming Process Of Eri Silk

Degumming process involves removing a gummy substance from the cocoons. All silk fibres are made of two proteins, Sericin (outer) and Fibroin (inner). The outer gummy protein called Sericin helps the fibres to stick together. And hence, this gummy sericin needs to be washed off so that the strands of the fibre can be separated.

Degumming of the silk cocoons by hand -

For about 1 kilo cocoons approximately 4 litres of water is needed in a vessel and half a cup of alkaline soap is added and brought to a boil.

Unlike other silks that require the pupa to be inside of the cocoon when degumming, Eri silk only uses the empty cocoons. The term ‘Ahimsa’ or ‘Peace silk’ or ‘Non-violent silk’ is derived due to this process.

Next the degummed cocoons are stretched, flattened, and dried. Eri silk yarn can be spun directly from a fluffed cocoon. Alternately the degummed cocoons can be dyed and yarn spun or used for other crafting needs.

Here is sample video on the degumming process of Eri silk cocoons!

Difference Between Wool and Eri Silk

 Eri silk vs wool
Eri Silk (top left) Vs Wool (bottom right)

 

Wool

Eri Silk

Wool is mostly obtained from furry animals like sheep, but also fromrabbits, goats and alpacas. Wool which is a protein fibre is composed of keratin.

Eri Silk is also a natural protein fibre. The protein fibre of silk is made primarily out of fibroin and is created by Samia Cynthia Ricini moth or Philosomia Ricini moth.

For spinning yarn, the wool fibres go through a scouring process to remove impurities such as grease, dirt and other debris.

Cocoons are boiled in water to remove a gummy substance, after the moths emerge.

Wool being a short that needs to be hand spun or machine spun into a continuous yarn for use in knitting or weaving

The eri cocoons are open-mouthed making it the only staple silk fibre that needs to be spun like wool and cotton for use in knitting and weaving

Wool has good insulating properties.

Er Silk silk is not as good as wool in retaining warmth.

Wool can feel scratchy when worn next to skin

Eri silk is a no itch fibre, feels smooth & soft when worn

Wool is mostly used only for winter wear

Eri Silk is an all-weather fibre due to its isothermal properties.

Wool fibre doesn’t wrinkle easily and springs back to shape when stretched.

Produces static electricity when rubbed.

Eri silk has low shrinkage, excellent drapability is smooth and comfortable to wear, without static electricity and pilling

Wool, although hydrophilic, tends to pill because on the surface of the wool fibres, the scales stick to each other and to the fabric.

Eri silk is hydrophilic fibre, hence can absorb a lot of water, making Eri silk fabric less prone to pilling.

Wool is affordable and widely used

Is widely used by the local communities, is not cheap, but the shawls are sought after and treasured.

Difference Between Cotton and Eri Silk

          Cotton

Eri Silk

Cotton is a delicate, feathery staple fibre that develops in a ball around the seeds of the cotton plants.

Eri Silk is a natural protein fiber. The protein fiber of silk is made primarily out of fibroin and is created by Samia Cynthia Ricini moth or Philosomia Ricini moth.

For spinning yarn, the cotton fibers go through a spinning process to remove the seeds and debris from the fibre.

Cocoons are boiled in water to remove a gummy substance, after the moths emerge.

Cotton produces short fibers that are plied tightly to produce a yarn strong enough to withstand the rigors of weaving

The eri cocoons are open mouthed, the filament is discontinuous hence it is the only staple silk fibre unlike all other silks which are filament in nature.

Cotton is mass produced.

Eri Silk is exquisite

Cotton colours ranges from white to various shades of green and brown.

Eri silk fibres can be white, off-white, or reddish coloured

Cotton fabric draws heat away from the body

Eri Silk starts off feeling quite cold to the touch but heats up quickly and retains heat.

Cotton has good dyeability.

Eri silk is the most absorbent silk, and its colour fastness is better than cotton

Cotton has a good light fastness, so sun exposure is allowed.

Eri Silk’s light resistance is less than cotton, so it is not suitable to be exposed to the sun.

Hard to dry; strong shrinkage; low elasticity; it is easy to wrinkle when wearing, but hard to recover after wrinkle

It is easier to dry than cotton; low shrinkage; full of elasticity; excellent drapability and soft handle; it is smooth and comfortable to wear, without static electricity and pilling.

Cotton has better breathability than silk for the most part.

We say the most part because both fabrics can be woven into lightweight materials that breathe well.

Eri silk has a natural thermometer that helps cool you down in the hotter weather & vice-versa.


Check this video below to know the difference between Eri Silk and Cotton!


Apart from yarns, Eri silk embroidery threads are also very fine, and give you the best embroidery experience ever.

We serve the best, all natural Eri silk yarns for you to knit, crochet and weave with and a platform for you to bring out your super creative side.