Eri Silk packs into its yarn many sustainable credentials, making it one of the most ethical and luxurious silk alternatives out there. Here are 6 things we think everyone should know about it.
This year Thread Tales launches its very first wellbeing-inspired collection (launching soon!), featuring healing natural fabrics, plant-derived pigments, and our ever-loved soothing textures.
As part of this line, a newly-introduced yarn has earned a special place in our heart: Eri Silk. We sat down –virtually!– with Rituraj, the co-founder of our partnered supplier 7Weaves, to find out what makes this ethical silk alternative so special. Get to know Rituraj and feel inspired by 7Weaves’ story by reading the full interview on our digital magazine, or keep scrolling to discover 6 things you should know about Eri Silk.
It’s cruelty-freeThe glossy lustre generally associated with silk is the result of a cruel process that results in the premature death of the Mulberry silkworm. Upon maturation, the silkworm-turned-butterfly breaks out of the cocoon, made of one single thread of silk, severing it. To preserve the precious single thread in all its length there is but one thing to do: kill the silkworm before it’s ready to fly. Eri Silk is derived by the cocoon of the Eri silkworm who, unlike its Mulberry cousin, builds its cocoon with several shorter threads. This makes killing it unnecessary since the cocoon can be harvested once empty with no damage to the threads’ natural quality.
It’s indigenous-ownedThe entire production process is carried out by the local indigenous community, whose ancestral knowledge and expertise are regarded as a treasure by the co-founders of 7Weaves and informs all business decisions.
“These people have been weaving wild Eri silk and dyeing the yarn with foraged materials for generations”, tells us Rituraj. Who better than them is able to care for their own environment? Every village in the Lohargat forest is home to many Artisans who are skilled at farming, cultivating, spinning, dyeing and weaving Eri silk. Every step is carried out collaboratively with the forest community members in centres on their own land or in their own homes.
This system preserves their land as well as their ancestral techniques, celebrating their cultural knowledge and contributing to fair and meaningful economic freedom.
It’s a champion of biodiversity7Weaves produces its Eri Silk in Assam’s Loharghat Forest, of which the Eri silkworm is a native species. This Indo-Burmese region is, today, one of the planet’s most biologically rich areas. And one of the most threatened. The preservation of the local biodiversity is at the heart of 7Weaves mission.
Their model is unique because with an increase in Eri Silk production comes an increase in environmental protection. They employ an ancestral form of regenerative agriculture, called ‘forest plantation’, which entails a mosaic planting technique for both fodder and natural dye plants, which are interspersed with traditional crops and virgin forest on tribal land.
They harvest responsibly and, most importantly, plant responsibly. “We grow and employ only species that are already native of the habitat with the aim of not upsetting the original balance of the ecosystem. We don’t do anything to boost the survival chances of our additions: we don’t water them, we don’t fertilise them, we don’t add pesticides, we don’t clean the weeds. If it’s supposed to survive only with nature’s support, it will, and we will employ it.”, explains Rituraj. This system fulfils the necessities of the local community whilst preserving native plant species, and it discourages a harmful single-species agro-industry
It’s hand-craftedThe entirety of 7Weaves’ production is carried our by hand, without any industrial processes. Because it’s a short-staple fibre, Eri Silk cannot be reeled into a raw filament yarn, and therefore must be spun like wool. This quality allows our Artisans to create unique textures and various weight options. To achieve this, the hand-spinning process requires a light, expert touch ingrained in both muscle memory and culture.7Weaves’ wise spinners use a combination of pedal-powered spinning wheels and the traditional drop spindle technique. This is a valued skill passed down from generation to generation of local women. The dyeing is also done entirely by hand, following a rich traditional history of expertise. The secret ingredients to a luxury-quality final result? Time, patience, skills, and passion.
A biology lesson on Eri Silkworms with a local.
It’s produced via a circular economyBecause the Eri silkworm eats a wider variety of leaves compared to its Mulberry cousin (who feeds exclusively on Mulberry leaves), the production of Eri Silk supports a circular economy where waste is minimised and the farming and culture processes bring advantages to the community beyond the sole production of yarn.
Castor (Eri in the local language), the primary source of food for this silkworm, can also be used for natural oil production as well as food. Cassava and tapioca, which also feed the silkworm, are also part of the indigenous diet and food market.
Such flexibility allows the locals to farm Eri silkworms in harmony with the varied native flora which already supports their livelihood, instead of succumbing to soil-depleting single-crops that, while boosting the region’s economy on one hand, cripple its autonomy and self-sufficiency on the other.
It feels just as luxurious as silkAlongside its many positive social and environmental credentials, there are also some more practical reasons why this ethical silk alternative has become a favourite here at Thread Tales.
Eri silk matches the luxurious aesthetics of spun silk, which is more opaque and textured than your traditional glossy silk and which we love for its muted and elevated elegance. It is also irresistibly soft, with a tendency to get softer with every use. Finally, in its fibre it packs great hypoallergenic and thermo-regulating properties, making it the ideal companion throughout the seasons even for the most delicate skins.
Ancestral Wellness Collection: Eri Silk and Cashmere blend meditation shawl, worn over our Ombre Cashmere Cardigan (Natural).