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According to a story by Procopius,[24] it was not until AD that the Byzantine emperor Justinian obtained the first silkworm eggs. He had sent two Nestorian monks to Central Asia, and they were able to smuggle silkworm eggs to him hidden in rods of bamboo. While under the monks' care, the eggs hatched, though they did not cocoon before arrival. The church manufacture in the Byzantine Empire was thus able to make fabrics for the emperor, with the intention of developing a large silk industry in the Eastern Roman Empire, using techniques learned from the Sassanids.

These gynecia had a legal monopoly on the fabric, but the empire continued to import silk from other major urban centres on the Mediterranean. The weaving techniques they used were taken from Egypt. The first diagrams of semple looms appeared in the 5th century.

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After the start of the Crusades, techniques of silk production began to spread across Western Europe. They took the crops and silk production infrastructure, and deported all the workers to Palermo, thereby causing the Norman silk industry to flourish. Many also chose to settle in Avignon to furnish the popes of Avignon. The sudden boom of the silk industry in the Italian state of Lucca, starting in the 11th and 12th centuries was due to much Sicilian, Jewish, and Greek settlement, alongside many other immigrants from neighbouring cities in southern Italy.

Gaining momentum, in order to satisfy the rich and powerful bourgeoisie's demands for luxury fabrics, the cities of Lucca, Genoa, Venice and Florence were soon exporting silk to all of Europe.

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In there were 84 workshops and at least craftsmen in Florence alone. Reciprocal influences[edit] Polychrome embroidery in silk, 17th century, Antwerp French silk brocade - Lyon Silk was made using various breeds of lepidopterans, both wild and domestic. While wild silks were produced in many countries, there is no doubt that the Chinese were the first to begin production on such a large scale, having the most effective species for silk production, the Bombyx mandarina and its domesticated descendent B.

Chinese sources claim the existence of a machine to unwind silkworm cocoons in The cocoons were placed in a large basin of hot water, the silk would leave the cauldron by tiny guiding rings, and would be wound onto a large spool, thanks to a backwards and forward motion. The spinning wheel, in all likelihood moved by hand, was known by the beginning of the Christian era. The first accepted image of a spinning wheel appears in There is an image of a silk spinning machine powered by a water wheel that dates to More information is known about the looms used. The Nung Sang Chi Yao, or Fundamentals of Agriculture and Sericulture, compiled around , is rich with pictures and descriptions, many pertaining to silk.

It speaks of two types of loom that leave the worker's arms free: the draw loom, which is of Eurasian origin, and the pedal loom which is attributed to East Asian origins. There are many diagrams originate in the 12th and 13th centuries. When examined closely, many similarities between Eurasian machines can be drawn. Since the Jin dynasty, the existence of silk damasks has been well recorded, and since the 2nd century BC, four-shafted looms and other innovations allowed the creation of silk brocades.

Silk in the medieval world[edit]A more abundant luxury[edit] A mature mulberry tree in Provence. The high Middle Ages saw continued use of established techniques for silk manufacture without any changes to speak of, neither in materials nor in tools used. Between the 10th and 12th centuries, small changes began to appear, though the changes of the 13th century were much larger and more radical. In a short time, new fabrics began to appear; hemp and cotton each also had their own particular techniques of manufacture.

Known since Roman times, silk remained a rare and expensive material. It is possible that, as with in England at the end of the 18th century, advances in the textile industry were a driving force behind advances in technology as a whole. Silk indeed occupies a privileged place in history on account of this. The instruments used were further perfected in Bologna between and From the start of the 14th century, many documents allude to the use of devices that were quite complex. The earliest surviving depiction of a European spinning wheel is a panel of stained glass in the Cathedral of Chartres.

It is possible that the toothed warping machine was created by the silk industry; it allowed the warp to be more uniform and allowed the warp to be of a longer length. Many things which would have earlier been completely forbidden by the guilds were now commonplace using low quality wool, carding, etc. In the silk industry, the use of water-powered mills grew, and by the 15th century, the loom designed by Jean le Calabrais saw nearly universal use.

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Italian silk cloth was very expensive, as much a result of the cost of the raw material as of the production costs. The craftsmen in Italy proved unable to keep up with the exigencies of French fashion, which continuously demanded lighter and less expensive materials. Nevertheless, Italian silk long remained among the most prized, mostly for furnishings and the brilliant colours of the dyes.

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Following the example of the wealthy Italian city-states of the era, such as Venice, Florence, and Lucca, which had become the center of the luxury-textile industry, Lyon obtained a similar function in the French market. In the face of protests by the Lyonnais, he conceded and moved the silk fabrication to Tours, but the industry in Tours stayed relatively marginal.

In , the king granted a monopoly on silk production to the city of Lyon. Starting in the 16th century, Lyon became the capital of the European silk trade, notably producing many reputable fashions. Thousand of workers, the canuts, devoted themselves to the flourishing industry. In the middle of the 17th century, over 14, looms were used in Lyon, and the silk industry fed a third of the city's population.

Viens and La Bastide-des-Jourdans are two of the communes of Luberon that profited the most from mulberry plantations that have since disappeared. Spread to other countries[edit] A former magnanery in LuberonEngland under Henry IV was also looking to develop a silk industry, but no opportunity arose until the revocation of the Edict of Nantes the s, when hundreds of thousands of French Huguenots, many of whom were skilled weavers and experts in sericulture, began immigrating to England to escape religious persecution.

Some areas, including Spitalfields saw many high-quality silk workshops spring up, their products distinct from continental silk largely by the colors used. Many envisioned starting a silk industry in the British colonies in America, starting in , under the reign of King James I of England. The silk industry in the colonies never became very large.

Likewise, silk was introduced to numerous other countries, including Mexico, where it was brought by Cortez in Only rarely did these new silk industries grow to any significant size. The start of the Industrial Revolution[edit]The start of the Industrial Revolution was marked by a massive boom in the textile industry, with remarkable technological innovations made, led by the cotton industry of Great Britain.

In its early years, there were often disparities in technological innovation between different stages of fabric manufacture, which encouraged complementary innovations. For example, spinning progressed much more rapidly than weaving. The silk industry, however, did not gain any benefit from innovations in spinning, as silk is naturally already a thread.

Making silk, silver, and gold brocades is a very delicate and precise process, with each colour needing its own dedicated shuttle. In the 17th and 18th centuries progress began to be made in the simplification and standardization of silk manufacture, with many advances following one after another. Bouchon and Falcon's punched card loom appeared in , later improved on by Jacques de Vaucanson. Later, Joseph-Marie Jacquard improved on the designs of Falcon and Vaucanson, introducing the revolutionary Jacquard loom, which allowed a string of punched cards to be processed mechanically in the correct sequence.

Punched cards themselves were carried over to computers, and were ubiquitous until their obsolescence in the s. From embroidery became highly mechanized due to the effectiveness of the Jacquard loom.


The mechanism behind the Jacquard loom even allowed complex designs to be mass-produced. The Jacquard loom was immediately denounced by workers, who accused it of causing unemployment, but soon it had become vital to the industry.

The loom was declared public property in , and Jacquard was rewarded with a pension and a royalty on each machine. In there were a total of Jacquard looms in Lyon alone. The canuts occupied the city of Lyon, and would not relinquish it until a bloody repression by the army, led by Marshal Soult. A second revolt, similar to the first, took place in Decline in the European silk industry[edit]The first silkworm diseases began to appear in , creating an epidemic.

The epidemic grew to a massive scale, and after having attacked the silkworms, other viruses began to infect the mulberry trees. The chemist Jean-Baptiste Dumas, French minister of agriculture, was charged with stopping the epidemic. In face of sericulturers' call for help, he asked Louis Pasteur to study the disease, starting in In he changed his view, and measures were enacted that caused the disease to decline.

Nevertheless, the increase in the price of silkworm cocoons and the reduction in importance of silk in the garments of the bourgeoisie in the 19th century caused the decline of the silk industry in Europe. The opening of the Suez Canal in and the silk shortage in France reduced the price of importing Asian silk, particularly from China and Japan. The 19th century saw the textile industry's progress caused by advances in chemistry.

The synthesis of aniline was used to make mauveine aniline purple dye and the synthesis of quinine was used to make indigo dye.

In Count Hilaire de Chardonnet invented artificial silk and in opened a factory dedicated to the production of artificial silk viscose , which cost much less and in part replaced natural silk. A Jacquard loom. An illustration of spinning, winding, doubling and throwing machines used in silk textile production in England, Silk, cotton and gilt-metal-strip-wrapped cotton panel, machine-woven in Scotland c. Tulip motif is inspired by Turkish textiles. Silk in modern times[edit] A woman weaving with silk threads in Hotan, China.

Following the crisis in Europe, the modernization of sericulture in Japan made it the world's foremost silk producer. By the early 20th century, rapidly industrializing Japan was producing as much as 60 percent of the world's raw silk, most exports shipping through the port of Yokohama. Urbanization in Europe saw many French and Italian agricultural workers leave silk growing for more lucrative factory work.

20th century

Raw silk was imported from Japan to fill the void. During the Second World War, silk supplies from Japan were cut off, so western countries were forced to find substitutes. Synthetic fibres such as nylon were used in products such as parachutes and stockings, replacing silk. Even after the war, silk was not able to regain many of the markets lost, though it remained an expensive luxury product. In it produced 58, tonnes out of a world production of 81,, followed by India at 13, tonnes.

Japanese production is now marginal, at only tonnes.

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Chinese Silk: A Cultural History. Rutgers University Press. Encyclopedia of China, 1st ed. Asian art. Retrieved The Silk Association of Great Britain. Archived from the original on Archived from the original on May 22, Retrieved May 6, TravelLady Magazine. The Atlas of World Geology. New York: Checkmark Books.