Yearn Worthy Yarn: Peace Silk

Tussah silk yarn Ah silk. It is such a luxurious fiber; cool and soft to the touch. It has an unmistakable feel that you always know when something is made of silk.

To become the silk that we know and love, this fiber has a very interesting story.

Silk comes from the cocoon of the Bombyx moth. Before turning into a moth the Bombyx caterpillar spins itself a cocoon of 1000 yards of silky fiber to house itself during the transformation. The caterpillar secretes a substance that is a thin but strong strand of fiber, which is what we know as silk.

In the conventional harvesting of silk the cocoon and caterpillar are boiled before it hatches to produce a continuous thread of silk. Peace silk, also known as Vegetarian silk, or Tussah silk, harvests the cocoons after the moths have hatched. While this is seen as more humane, the process to get the cocoon to become silk as we know is not as simple.

In the conventional production of silk, the boiled cocoon is simply wound onto spools. In the production of Peace silk, the cocoon is spun like other fibers to create yarn. This is because for the moth to emerge from its cocoon, it secretes a chemical to break down a part of the cocoon’s wall to form a hole. The continuous thread of the cocoon is broken once the moth leaves. The chemical also turns the silk a different color than conventional silk. The upside of Peace silk is that it is still just as strong and luxurious as conventional silk.

Tussah silk is also considered vegetarian, but instead of the silk gathered in a commercial setting, the cocoons are harvested from the wild. Their color ranges from beige to brown because the caterpillars eat a more diverse diet.

Aurora Silk offers many weights of natural Tussah silk, perfect for dying. If you want to spin your own silk, they also offer limited quantities of cocoons.

Spirit Trail Fiberworks offers both conventional and Tussah silk. Their Tussah is 2-ply and comes in a variety of deep jewel colors in solids and variegated blends.

For something with a little bit more weight Color Song offers a 100% Tussah silk yarn in sport weight that is warm and strong without loosing its luster. Cornflower (pictured) and Popsicle are just a few of their wonderful color ways that they offer on this great looking yarn.

More Fabric and Fibers for your craft projects:

Image credit: Color Song

Written by Kelly Rand

Kelly covers visual arts in and around Washington, DC for DCist and is editor of Crafting a Green World. Kelly has also been published by Bust Magazine and you can find her byline at Indie Fixx and Etsy’s Storque and has taught in Etsy’s virtual lab on the topic of green crafting.

Kelly helps organize Crafty Bastards: Arts and Crafts Fair, one of the largest indie craft fairs on the east coast and has served on the Craft Bastard’s jury since 2007. Kelly is also co-founder of Hello Craft a nonprofit trade association dedicated to the advancement of independent crafters and the handmade movement. Kelly resides in Washington, D.C. and believes that handmade will save the world.


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