Recently, I received an e-mail from a customer inquiring about the (I assume) authenticity of the silk scarves I dye. It also appeared that she wasn’t happy that my material came from China. Like many dyers and painters of silk products (i.e. scarves) I buy ready made blanks from well-known and reputable companies who sell to craftspeople and artists all over the country. These companies buy their materials and products from overseas because these products are not available here. Most of their silk products come from China and so they are labeled to indicate that. I suppose one could raise many and various issues relating to this, but these companies are very clear and open about their products, where they come from, how they are produced and the conditions under which they are created, so I’m comfortable with this. It makes things convenient, making it possible for me to readily explore these forms and fabrics without having to grow, weave and sew before finally dyeing them.
However, my costumer’s question did make me curious about silk and the presence of a silk industry in this country. What I’ve learned in a short period of time is that there is a lot of information on the topic and it’s readily available on the web. There are also several books and other publications on the topic.
To begin with, it appears that most of our (U.S.) silk comes from China or India, as they are the two top producers of it. The Wikipedia article on silk lists other top producers as Uzbekistan, Brazil, Iran, Thailand, Vietnam, Korean, Romania and Japan.
To answer my own earlier question I found that we did have a small silk industry for about 100 years. One resource says, “The American silk industry was at one time the largest in the world. Yarns for many purposes, knitted goods, woven and printed fabrics of all qualities were made by U.S. mills. Today, faded into history and little regarded, American silk receives scant attention.”