Integral Thread

Luxury Plain Collection: Wild Silk

Integral Thread looks at the unique properties of Eri silk, a type of wild silk, and why its resilience makes for the perfect rug.

Chinese Silk has been used for centuries to make fine, luxury rugs. Integral Thread has been making rugs with traditional Chinese silk since Stephanie began curating and creating the business in 2013. This ancient type of silk is made by the domesticated Mulberry caterpillar, or “silkworm,” in China, and then imported to India where it is hand-knotted into beautiful rugs.

For years, Integral Thread has heard rumblings of wild silk while on sourcing trips in India. Finally, we have sourced one type to add to our rug collections: Eri Silk.

Here, we will tell you more about this luxury fiber made by wild silk caterpillars in Assam, India.

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From Fiber to Yarn:

  1. Silk fiber is the secretion of the silkworm, similar to a spider and its web. However, silkworms’ secretions form a cocoon around their pupa, formed from dense strands.

  2. Reeling is the laborious process of unwinding the silk fiber cocoons. This is done by hand by women, using different types of tools such as reeling bowls, their own thighs, or with the help of a partner.

  3. Spinning yarn from the unreeled silk fiber happens next. This is also done by women.

  4. Weaving then starts after the yarn is spun and dyed. Weaving Eri Silk is mostly done by men.

  1. Though the process seems simple, even more goes into ensuring a high-quality end product.

Assamese silk caterpillars are raised in somewhat urban areas. They are typically raised by women, thriving on verandas in small cities or villages. They are fairly easy to raise, but do have specific needs and behaviors. Eri caterpillars need constant feeding and clearing of manure. They also take constant breaks, leaving short filaments of silk material. This makes for a denser silk fiber, resulting in warmer and heavier cloths than those made with other types of silk.

Raising Eri Silkworms also provides steady income for women. It generates the local economy and allows workers to stay in their communities, rather than moving away to a larger city. Not only is the silk fiber a good source of income, but women actually make more money from the larvae (pupa) inside the cocoon than the silk itself. Pupa are considered a delicacy, and sold to be eaten by both chickens and people. They provide important nutrition and help with poverty alleviation.

When the primary resources are gathered, thin envelopes of silk are left behind, called “waste”. This will become spun yarn, which is coarser and considered a lower quality than what is used for rugs or finer clothing. However, it is still prized for other household products.

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Wild Silk production not only creates luxurious products, but it also benefits our global society by instilling the following values:

  • Care for the environment: it's a regenerative and waste-free practice, reduces CO2 and increases oxygen, plus adds biodiversity to soil
  • Care for society: supports a deep connection to nature, family, and community
  • Care for the economy: it's the best employment option for many families. Raising Eri silkworms allows people to stay in their community, generating the local economy

It's important for us at Integral Thread to curate pieces that are as sustainable as they are beautiful. Learning and writing about Eri Silk has allowed us to better understand the intricacies and positive impacts it has as a resource, and has given us a deeper appreciation for the artisans involved in every step of the process. Thank you for joining us on this journey.

“Little by little, a little becomes a lot.” - Tanzanian proverb


Some production images and information were sourced from Karen Selk,

author of In Search of Wild Silk. Thank you!