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The Secret of Silk

Shall I let you into a secret?

Well-established legend has it that silk was invented in China by Empress Hsi Ling Shi, the wife of Emperor Huang Ti (the Yellow Emperor) in approximately 2696 BC.    It is said that as she was enjoying tea in the imperial gardens sitting under a mulberry tree, a cocoon fell into the Empress' cup and began to unravel.   As she looked more closely, she saw that the cocoon was actually made from a long thread that, rather than being fragile as one might imagine, was actually both soft and strong.    Inspired woman that she was, Empress Hsi Ling Shi went on to develop the cultivation of silkworms ("sericulture ") and invented the silk loom which allowed the silkworm threads to be fashioned into the beautiful soft cloth that we today call silk.

an image showing a silk scarf

Silk cloth was considered extremely valuable in Ancient China and, at first, could only be worn by members of the royal family.   It subsequently went on to become a prized export for the Chinese.    Foreign kings desired silk for the status it conferred and they were willing to pay huge sums of money for it.    In fact, silk became such an important export from China that the trade routes between this kingdom and Europe became known as the Silk Route. And because of its value, the emperors of China wanted to keep the secret of silk-making to themselves.   It became one of the most zealously-guarded secrets in history and anyone found guilty of smuggling out of the country the silkworm eggs, their cocoons or, indeed, the mulberry seeds they feed on was put to death.    Given the severity of the penalties, the Chinese were able to keep the secret of silk to themselves for over 2000 years until when, in AD 550, two intrepid monks from the Byzantine Empire managed to successfully smuggle silkworms out of the country.   It is said that the monks hid the eggs inside their bamboo walking sticks!


Interestingly, however, the wider availability of silk did not meet with universal approval and, in fact, during the Roman period, traditionalists were scandalised by the silk coming into Europe from China declaring it could not be called clothing as "it hid neither the decency nor the curves of the women of Rome".   It was considered too indecent!

Thankfully, such prejudice has now been overcome and this beautiful fabric is available for us all to enjoy.    At Scarf Room, we have a beautiful capsule collection of silk scarves which are made in China, the home of silk.    It is soft and glossy as silk should be, with clear and beautiful colours.    We adore our silk scarves which we believe is a fabric for every season.   It looks elegant and striking as a beautiful accessory both over simple knitwear during the day and elegant evening wear at night.   Our silk scarves are also generous enough to be worn as a sarong on a winter break offering the perfect cover-up by the pool or when having lunch.   Or do what the Italians and tie a silk scarf around a day or evening bag.    It truly is a versatile choice.

And knowing its rich history and legend, wearing silk just becomes a little more interesting, doesn't it ............?

Ciao bellissime!   A  presto!

ps   I love your feedback so please let me know what you think of this or previous articles and, indeed, if you have any ideas for forthcoming blogs.   I would really love to hear from you!


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