Eri silk is a protein fibre derived from cocoons made by the Samia Cynthia Ricini moth or Philosamia Ricini moth. It is 100% natural and is one of the four major silks being produced. Predominantly found in Meghalaya and other northeast states of India it is also considered a Vanya (wild) silk.
Eri silk yarn has some unique properties hence why it is known as an all-weather fibre. The Isothermal properties of Eri silk makes it cool in summer and its thermal properties make it warm in winter. The process of producing Eri silk yarns and fibres in the villages has the smallest carbon footprint in the world in the textile industry.
Another unique factor is that all activities from rearing of the silkworms to weaving happens within a village ecosystem. Unlike other textile fibres Eri silk production resembles a model of a circular economy.
Eri silk is mostly used in weaving in India’s Northeast region, but has great potential in knitting, crochet, and embroidery. Due to its staple (short) fibre makeup requiring it to be spun and not reeled. In addition it has a woolly texture or a cotton-like behaviour and is heavier than other silks.
Its natural properties make it gentle on the skin and doesn’t cause irritation or itchiness. Eri silk is hydrophilic, a fibre that loves water and can absorbs it well. It is well known to be the most absorbent silk that works very well with natural dyes.
The process of rearing Eri silk is still small scale done in homes of rearers in the villages. Eri silkworms can be fed Castor leaves, Tapioca leaves and Payam leaves, which are perennial in nature and require low maintenance. Although the Eri silkworm is known to feed on the leaves of different plant species, Castor is usually the preferred food.
Eri silkworms continue feeding on the castor leaves and they also excrete body wastes at the same time. During the growth process, their colour changes from a yellow into a green-yellow colour before they are ready to spin their cocoons.
After 20-22 days, the process of spinning the cocoon begins. The Eri silkworm emerges as a moth from its cocoon after three weeks. Eri silk cocoons are open-ended, hence the moth emerges out by itself. After the moth leaves the cocoon, the empty cocoons are collected to harvest the silk fibres.