silk, fine, horny, translucent, yellowish fiber produced by the silkworm in making its cocoon and covered with sericin, a protein. Many varieties of silk-spinning worms and insects are known, but the silkworm of commerce is the larva of the Bombyx mori, or mulberry silkworm, and other closely related moths.
Wild silk is the product of the tussah worm of India and China, which feeds on oaks. It is now semicultivated, as groves of dwarf trees are provided for its feeding. It spins a coarser, flatter, yellower filament than the Bombyx mori, and the color does not boil out with the gum. Tussah silk is a rough, durable, washable fabric known as shantung or pongee.
Sections in this article:
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Textiles and Weaving