the age old question- “what if?”

a comment on a recent post reminded me of this story:

“According to legend, silk was discovered in 2640 BCE by Empress Leizu. One day, the Leizu was drinking tea under a mulberry tree and a silkworm cocoon fell into her cup. The cocoon became loose and the fiber could be unwound: by twisting together fibers from several cocoons, she made a thread strong enough to be woven into cloth. Silk making (sericulture) is even older than the legend suggests. Archeologists have found ancient cloth and even a 6000-7000 year old cup decorated with pictures of silkworms.”

basically, however it came to be, sericulture surely was a result of someone asking “what if?”. a unique moment when things all lined up and a person wondered…

(a brief excerpt from View from the Dyepot, available here.)
meanwhile, the Silk Study Tour to Japan is picking up steam…get on board while there are still spaces! it’s exciting to see the wide variety of folks coming along.

6 thoughts on “the age old question- “what if?”

  1. helen

    True about the “what if” being the source of discovery, and a little bit of “it was meant to be”. Still, I am always inquisitive and curious of things, and then of course, truly amazed! Thanks for the story


  2. CynthiaReynolds

    What if.. ? it always leads to the best discoveries!
    I have been playing with my indigo vat all summer, and also dyed some silk cocoons. I was not sure how it would work out given the air inside of them and the nature of indigo. They turned out lovely.. and now it is just a matter of what project they will be used for. I am slowly gathering a nice collection of natural dyed cocoons.. I also dyed them with cochineal… mmmm.. Pictures of both are on my blog if you are curious 🙂


    1. shiborigirl Post author

      hey- just checked out your website and i think i have seen some of your jewelry before-somewhere…nice to “meet up”. yes, i wasn’t sure how the cocoons would take to the indigo seeing as they are full of sericin and would float as well. i boiled mine first to loosen a bit. was thinking of soaking again and making some mawata with the indigo cocoons- might be interesting. i have seen dyed cocoons before of course and even colored cocoons spun by cats fed dyed food (weird).


      1. CynthiaReynolds

        ahh.. mawata.. brilliant! I am a feltmaker as well, and am able to incorporate mawata right into my work. I have been saving my cocoons to use in my silver jewelry.. but this may soon change.
        ps.. I agree.. very nice to “meet up”, your work is inspirational! Since following your posts, I have tried to source silkworm eggs for a school project, but it seems shipping to Norway does not seem easy 😦
        .. as for the cat fed dyed food stuff… I am at a loss! haha


  3. India flint

    i’ve often wondered just how long ago it was that the first piece of string was twined…probably by a woman
    realising that two strands of ‘whatever’ twisted together
    were stronger than one…



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