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In 1938, total world production of raw silk amounted to 56,400 tons, of which 43,150 tons (76%) was supplied from Japan. By 1970, world output had dropped to 40,000 tons with Japan remaining the leading supplier (20,500 tons). The next largest supplier was China (10,000 tons).
Although synthetics have replaced silk for many purposes, the production of silk is still of considerable importance; its softness, durability and lustre cannot be duplicated synthetically.
In the production of raw silk, silkworm cocoons are boiled in water for about ten minutes to kill the pupae and facilitate the unreeling of the silk filament. Then the ends of several filaments are picked up, passed through a concentrator and reeled. The weight of finished silk filament yarn is expressed in denier; the thickness of one filament being two to three denier.
Silk pongee is a spun yarn that is much admired by the Japanese for its warm feel and understated elegance. Tsumugi weaves, of which there are many, are among the most prized of Japanese fabrics.
True pongee yarn is drawn from the cocoon of a species of silkworm that feeds on oak leaves, but in Japan most pongee yarn is drawn from the outer, flossy layer of the cocoon of mulberry-feeding worms. The floss is twisted into yarn by hand, saliva being used to moisten and strengthen the mass of filaments into a continuous thread.
The term pongee is said to have originated in the Chinese expression "pun-chi"; meaning "home-woven": In modern times, fabrics with the typical slubbed finish of pongee (often referred to as "shantung") are popular throughout the world as dress or furnishing fabrics.
The contents of this site are excerpted from THE OFFICIAL RECORD OF TIME CAPSULE EXPO'70(March 1975). Please note that company and organization names may differ from those of the current ones.
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