SILK. A fine Flossy thread or file ment spun by various species of cater pillars or larvae of the Phaleena genus. Of these, the Phalsena atlas produces the greatest quantity ; but the Phalana bom byx is that commonly employed for this purpose in Europe. The silkworm, in its caterpillar state, which may be con sidered as the first stage of its existence, after acquiring its full growth (about three inches in length), proceeds to en close itself in an oval-shaped ball, or co coon, which is formed by an exceedingly slender and long filament of fine yellow silk, emitted from the stomach of the in sect preparatory to its assuming the shapes of the chrysalis and moth. In this latter stage, after emancipating itself from its silken prison, it seeks its mate, which has undergone a similar transformation; and in two or three days afterwards, the fe male having deposited her eggs (from 800 to 500 in number), both insects ter minate their existence. According to Reaumur, the phalcena is not the only in sect that affords this material—several species of the eranea, or spider, enclose their eggs in very fine silk.
Raw silk is produced by the operation of winding off, at the same time, several of the balls or cocoons (which are im mersed in warm water, to soften the natu ral gum on the filament) on a common reel, thereby forming one smooth even thread. When the skein is dry, it is taken from the reel and made up into hanks ; but before it is fit for weaving, and in order to enable it to undergo the process of dyeing, without furring up or separating the fibres, it is converted into one of three forms—viz. singles, tram, or organzine.
Singles (a collective noun) is formed of one of the reeled threads, being twisted, in order togive it strength and firmness.
Tram is formed of two or more threads twisted together. In this state it is com monly used in weaving, as the shoot or weft.
Thrown silk is formed of two, three, or more singles, according to the substance required, being twisted together in a con trary direction to that in which the sin gles of which it is composed are twist ed. This is termed organzining ; and the silk so twisted, organzine. The art of throwing was originally confined to Italy, where it was kept a secret for a long period.
Silk is commencing to be cultivated very extensively in this country. One of
the most successful growers is Mr. By rain, Brandenburg, Meade co., Kentucky. Experience has fully proved that the climate of the United States is as well adapted to the nature and habits of the silk-worm and the production of silk, as that of other country. Several va rieties of the mulberry being indigenous in our soil, and those generally used in the native country of the silk-worm suc ceed equally well in our own soil and cli mate. Hence, from the nature and ha bits of the American people, we must soon become the greatest silk-growing nation on the earth.
The first step towards the production of silk, is to secure a supply of suitable •ood for the silk-worm.
Having tried all the varieties introduc ed into our country, Mr. Byron finds the morns multicaulis and the Canton varie ties, all things considered, most suitable for that purpose.
At Economy, Pennsylvania, the rearing of the silk-worm is now carried on to a great extent and more successfully than in any other part of the United States, or perhaps in the world. Their houses are two stories high. The worms are fed on small trays about eighteen or twenty inches wide, and about three feet long. They are supported on frames or hur dles one above the other, and are about six inches apart. When the worms are about ready to wind, they are trans ferred to the upper story, to permanent shelves, about 16 inches apart, where they form their cocoons in hunches of straw placed upright between the shelves. The worms are cleaned at least once after every moulting, and after the last, every day. For this purpose they have nets wove or knit, of cotton twine, something larger than the size of the trays, with meshes of various sizes suited to the age of the worms. For the last age they are about three-quarters of an inch square. These are used without frames. When it is required to remove the worms from their litter, the nets are laid lightly over them, and then plentifully fed. When the worms have arisen upon the fresh leaves, they are removed by two persons taking hold of the four corners of the net and transferring them to clean trays, held and carried off by a third person. One hundred thousand are changed in this manner in two hours.