It is truly amazing that something so refined and delicate as silk can be produced from such unprepossessing beginnings.
The story of the silk industry is one of great age and interest. The mulberry leaves on which the silkworms (caterpillars) feed are carefully maintained by the growers. The end result is a mass of silky pupae cases that have to be carefully processed to provide a fine, strong and even thread. The thread can then be woven into fabrics and is very amenable to dyeing.
The secret of silk production was a jealously guarded secret and the way that it was smuggled out to the West is a well-known story. When the news reached Britain, King James I's promoted the widespread planting of mulberries to encourage English silk production. Unfortunately the wrong type of mulberry trees were planted (black rather than white) and no silk industry started up. Although the fact that the British climate bears so little similarity to that of Southern China was an equally large obstacle.