The superior qualities of silk:
The organic silk used by Ruskovilla is GOTS-certified. It is manufactured in accordance with stringent and closely monitored environmental and social criteria to ensure that it improves the wellbeing of people and the environment in the long term.
Silk is a luxurious natural fibre that has been manufactured in China for 5,000 years. Ruskovilla’s GOTS-certified organic silk comes from the mountain slopes in the province of Sichuan in central China. Organic silk differs from mass-produced silk most of all with regard to its quality: an individual silkworm that has eaten the leaves of organically farmed mulberry trees can produce up to 1,500 metres of high-quality, single-filament silk. It is from this high-quality single-filament silk that Ruskovilla's organic silk clothing is made.
Organic silk production accounts for e.g. the following:
The leaves of the mulberry tree (Morus alba) used to feed the domestic silkmoth (Bombyx mori) are grown organically without any artificial fertiliser or artificial pesticides.
The mulberry trees are grown in a simulated natural environment along with a range of fruit trees and other plant species, rather than in isolation. A diverse environment thrives and provides a good habitat for the buzzing bees, nesting birds, and other animals.
Production is organised in accordance with the Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) standard so that employees work in a safe, fair and equal working environment.
The organic silk manufacturing process involves a lot of manual labour, and provides employment for the area's inhabitants.
The silk producers receive higher remuneration for the high-quality silk than for normal silk, so productivity also improves.
Organic silk clothing is manufactured in Finland, and the clothing is not treated with any finishing products.
How is GOTS-certified silk produced?
In recent decades, the traditional method of manufacturing silk has given way to mass production, which can be seen in the poorer quality of both the soil and silk. There are currently only a few GOTS-certified silk farms in the world, but we hope and believe that the organic silk production industry will expand in the future.
Silk is a material that requires several different work phases and craftsmanship, which also explains the value of the material. There are dozens of moth species that spin silk, of which the most important is the domestic silkmoth, which feeds on the leaves of the mulberry tree. The species has been domesticated and is farmed to produce silk. The silk used by Ruskovilla is mulberry silk.
Silk production begins with growing the silkworms' food, mulberry trees. In spring, the silkmoth's eggs hatch into larvae with huge appetites; around 250-300kg of mulberry leaves grown in accordance with organic standards are required for every kilogram of raw silk.
The larvae are fed mulberry leaves on shelving which has been built underneath protective shelters. The leaves must be chopped up finely for the smaller larvae, which are fed five times per day, including night-feeds. The larger larvae are given leaves three times per day.
During their growth phase, the larvae moult four times, with their appetite only increasing each time. Their munching can be heard and seen. The growth phase lasts for around a month, after which time the fully grown larvae are ready to enclose themselves in a cocoon. When fully grown, they are around 8-9cm long and weigh about 4g. During the growth phase, their weight will have increased one thousand-fold.
Once the larvae have achieved their full size, they stop eating and search for one of the cardboard "cells" that have been made for them. To protect themselves, the larvae spin a cocoon from two different threads formed in the salivary glands. The cocoon, woven over 3-4 days in a figure-of-eight shape, can contain up to 1,500 metres of single-filament silk.
The silkworm develops into a moth in a couple of weeks. The fully grown silkmoth releases enzymes to break the cocoon. It does not fly, and lives only a short while after emerging to breed. The female lays an average of 500 eggs, which develop into new larvae for the next breeding cycle. Shown below is the silkmoth’s fascinating life cycle, which repeats continuously. This is why ancient China considered the silkmoth to be a symbol of immortality, and cared for the larvae conscientiously in accordance with the cosmic rhythm of the night sky.
The majority of cocoons are collected before the larvae have time to develop into moths.
In cocoons collected for silk production, the moth is not allowed to release the enzyme so that the silk thread remains as intact as possible. The cocoons are treated with hot air or steam, which kills the larvae. The cocoons are then placed into hot water containers, and the outermost layer of sericin that covers the cocoon is brushed away. Below that is fine silk filament, or long silk fibre, which can form single threads up to 1,5 km in length. It is from this material that our new silk knitwear is made.
We can follow the different phases of the silk's further production into a fantastic end product in the pictures below.
Pictures from Ruskovilla's visit to the organic silk farm spring 2018