National Geographic : 1984 Jan
Metamorphosis from strand to skein begins when cocoons are soaked in hot water to soften the sericin, enablingthread ends to be plucked (above), unraveled, and plied together-usuallyfive to eight strands at a time. At China's Hangzhou Silk Factory theyarn is reeled, graded,color-coded by a temporary dye, twisted, washed, wound into skeins (right), and braided for shipment (below). Some 35 countriesproduce raw silk. But compared to the manufacture of other naturalfibers like cotton, which is measuredin the millions of tons a year, world productionof this labor-intensiveand consequently expensive cloth is slight: a mere 52,000 tons.