Yesterday's post reminded me of a visit to an Anatolian rug factory a number of years back where I saw a demonstration of how silk thread is made. It starts with hundreds of cocoons of mulberry silkworms that are soaked in a vat of water to soften them up. The dead worm can be heard rattling inside the cocoon if you shake it (silk-wearing vegans take note). After the cocoon gum softens, a "threader" will use a whisk to "grab" the ends of silk threads off the cocoons and drape the filaments onto a reeling machine. It seems like this should be really difficult but it happens quite easily. A single cocoon can give up to 1500 m (almost a mile!) of filament, 4 to 18 strands of which are then twisted together to make a silk thread.
The finished product, a Hereke silk rug with the one of the highest knot counts in the world (wish I had written down the number). The photo doesn't do the spectral vibrancy of this carpet justice. This is a rug connoisseurs put on their wall.
And quite a bit more down-market, but still hand-knotted (with wool), here's the runner I bought....I think it looks very Arts and Crafty.
and a few more for flavor....