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About Peace Silk

by Cheryl Kolander
Originator of the term and the only source for true
Peace silk, at this time, on the planet.

“Peace silk is silk that has been raised by Peaceful methods”
This observation from one of my apprentices sums up the concept.
I say: Peace silk is from cocoons from which the moth has freely emerged, to mate, lay eggs and die happy.

In 1985 I publicly coined the term “PEACE SILK” in an article in Fiberarts Magazine. The concept has existed since silk was first domesticated. Originally silk was all wild. Some people began to collect and spin the cocoons that are left on branches or under leaves after these wild
silk moths emerge.

There are hundreds of species of silk moths that exist wild. There are several species that have been domesticated. There are now several species that are semi-cultivated. Naturally gathered wild silk, gathered after the moths have emerged, is Peace silk. Not all wild silk is Peace silk. However, most still is. This includes Tussah, Eri and Muga silks from India. All three of these species, and a few more, are semi cultivated in India. Tussah is currently cultivated in China. Habitat reduction (loss of forests worldwide) necessitates this cultivation if we are to continue to enjoy the health benefits of natural silk.

Most cultivation of wild silk produces Peace silk. This is especially true of hand raised, hand processed silks of rural India. It is less true of factory processed Chinese tussahs. I am careful to label as Peace silk only those fabrics and yarns which I am quite sure are Peace silk by the above definitions. I created the term Peace silk to represent this special quality of silk. However the concept of harmless silk has existed since people domesticated silk. In India it was called “Monk’s silk” because suitable for even the most extreme do-no-harm religious person. It has been used this way for as long as we know religions to have existed.

“Ahimsa silk” is the term now current in India, since my partner-producer has been making this since 2002. He holds the patent in India for Bombyx mori (cultivated) Ahimsa silk. He has contracted with local south Indian silk mills, to save their breeder cocoons. He collects them and has them spun and woven in small local mills and villages. Most of the Ahimsa fabric is
woven in villages, in peoples homes who have a few power or even still hand looms.

Ahimsa means non-violent, and was popularized as a term by Ghandi, as an ethic for the political movement that eventually led to India’s independence. Ahimsa silk is equivalent to the term Peace silk. However, increasingly I find that both terms have been misused, mis-applied by others to ordinary silk. Please be aware that I only sell as Peace or Ahimsa silk that which I know to have truly been produced by peaceful methods, and the silk is a cast off of caterpillars who have successfully completed their transformation into the winged, sexual creatures we call moths.

The life cycle of the Peace silk producing caterpillar-moth: eggs in the refrigerator (or natural hibernation in the case of wild species): 9 months, aprox. set out to warm and hatch: 2 weeks.
Hatchlings to full grown caterpillars: 4 to 6 weeks depending on temperature and species.
Spinning the transformatory cocoon: 3 days.
Transformation: 2 weeks for domestic Bombyx mori; wild species vary.
Emergence, mating, laying of eggs and happy passing in natural death: 1 week.

I raise my strain of Peace silk every year since 1992. The strain was obtained from the dear, devoted Nancy Simpson of Sacramento, California. She tended this strain for 20 years before I got some eggs from her. Silkworms must be raised every year. The eggs are only viable for
one season. If they are not raised the species will go extinct. My strain includes both the striped “Zebra” caterpillars and the almost glowing “Princess”, light green or “white” skinned ones. There is no difference between them any more than blue-eyes vs brown in people.

My strain produces both white-gummed and golden cocoons. I believe the golden gum is the original and various raiser traditions have selected for the white gum, over centuries. In South Asia all the cocoons are golden gummed. This colour is only in the outer coating of the silk fibre. It makes the silk hard and tough and stiff. To obtain soft silk, the “raw” silk is boiled in soapy water, or washing soda water, or it is heaped in a pile and fermentation degummed. The sericin or silk gum is a major bi-product. It is used in shampoo-conditioners and other hair care products. I produce the only Peace silk shampoo-conditioner.

I am happy to have promoted the raising of Peace silk by schools and home textile artists around the country. All my eggs, those that are in surplus beyond what I hatch myself, go out to schools and home textile artists. None are wasted.

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