When Did I First Hear About Eri Silk?
Eri silk is at the Core of Meghalaya Traditions
I bet you have never heard of Meghalaya. It is a state located in Northeast India. I have been living in this state for 14 years. Even now I meet many Indian's who don't know this is a state in their country. The treasures of this beautiful temperate land and the opportunities for the Khasi and Garo tribes of Meghalaya is immense.
Eri is the most respected fabric of the local tribal people of Meghalaya. From Queens and Kings to the every-day villager, Eri silk is the fabric worn with the most pride. Maybe that’s why hundreds of villages raise these silkworms and have the Eri silk supply chain and eco-system at their core.
Monolith stones create a resting place near the Ri-Bhoi Queens palace. A region where weaving with Eri silk is slowly fading.
Farming in a Circular Economy: Rearing Silkworms From Egg to Fiber
When our Muezart team explores villages it is quite common to enter a small village house and discover Eri silkworms (philosomia ricini) in baskets placed throughout the home, in the kitchen and the bedroom. The baskets will be covered with castor leaves (ricinus communis) for the worms to feed on. A careful watch over the worms is essential. The biggest predator is the ant. An entire batch of feeding worms can be destroyed in an hour.
The cycle from egg to cocoon takes about 50 days. When the Eri caterpillar reaches full size, she is ready to spin her cocoon. The peace story takes place when the moth evolves and breaks out of the cocoon, leaving a hole to show that new life has entered the world. The moth will lay her eggs and the cycle will begin again. With other silks: Mulberry, Muga, and Tasar – the moth is boiled in order to extract the fiber. This is why Eri silk is also called ahimsa. While the Eri moth can emerge peacefully, it is also true that the local people of Meghalaya consume the worm for a source of protein and also sell the worm in the village markets for their livelihood. This has been the local tradition for hundreds of years.
Processing Eri Cocoons
The cocoons are then boiled in hot pH balanced soapy water for one hour. This boiling is to clean out the sericin. Sericin is a protein gum coating created by silkworms in the production of the silk cocoon. After boiling, the cocoons are left to soak in the hot water till it cools. Finally, they are rinsed and pounded into flat rounds and set to dry.
Once the silk is dry it is ready to be spun into yarn. If the fabric will be woven in the natural Eri fiber color the weaving can begin immediately.
Spinning Eri Cocoons
There is a predominant type of spinning practiced by weavers throughout the villages of Meghalaya. This is the ancient slow method of spinning silk with a spindle. The Muezart team is presently experimenting with village weavers as well as our own maker/artisan team to innovate faster methods of hand spinning Eri silk yarn.
Weaving Eri Silk Yarn
Eri fiber creates a beautiful natural off-white color. Most of the traditional Khasi Eri shawls are woven in this classic natural color. The Muezart network of Eri silk weavers is made up of young women, mothers, and grandmothers. Women dominate the weaving livelihood. But cocoon farming is a family affair!
We love working and innovating designs and best practices with our growing team of weavers. Today all Muezart products are woven using a floor loom or a fly shuttle loom. Come visit us and you will discover that a loom is a common sight in every village home. In fact, the Khasi’s have a tradition that before you have a baby, you must first weave your own baby sling wrap! The women of Meghalaya are industrious farmers and weavers. Our team becomes jealous of the weaver's open-air workspace where they typically set up their looms at home.
Naturally Dyeing The Yarn
We use plants to dye our Eri silk yarn. Natural dying is an artisan tradition ready to fade from the culture of Meghalaya weavers. Muezart aims to revive this art and create additional value add to the products our customers love. We believe reviving is developmental and creates another economic model for a sustainable business.
We have a few grandmothers training our Muezart team in over 40 plant-based natural color dyes. This art of creating natural color from plants is a slow journey. Muezart is in the process of creating artisan yarns and experimenting with tie and dye weaving. The opportunity to flourish and create together is vast.
Muezart Is Set to Revive and Regenerate Eri Silk
The world of fashion has recently put a spotlight on Eri silk, calling it the most sustainable fabric in the world. Consumers have become vigilant wanting to know:
- Where do my clothes come from?
- How are my clothes made?
- Who makes my clothes?
- Do my clothes hurt the earth?
- Is the fabric regenerative?
Eri Silk Is a Regenerative Silk Everyone Is Talking About
- Its natural way of production is one of a kind
- Its fibers are dense and strong
- The fabric is silk, yet feels like no other silk
- Washable and wrinkle-free
- Cooling in the summer and warming in the winter. Is it a sort-of natural Gor-tex and Patagonia?
- Tender on skin and hypoallergenic
- An heirloom fabric that gets better with time.
With such wide-ranging fabric applicability, how can you not love this fabric? Its sustainable properties are solid and tough. In the Khasi cultural tradition, a shawl or a baby sling, made with Eri silk will be passed down for generations as an heirloom. The properties alone make it known as the all-weather everyday queen of textiles.
Our Passion for Eri Silk Goes Beyond the Slow Fashion Trend
Has Eri Silk been knocking at our door since 2005?
About 14 years ago Chillibreeze saw what most others did not. The people of Northeast India have amazing potential. Now the company has ambitious plans to use its profit with a purpose. To release hidden potential in new areas.
Naturally Dyed Eri Silk Yarn and Handlooms
We will sell Eri silk yarn and products via e-commerce to customers who will love this rare, warm, rustic fabric. We believe this will revive village livelihoods that are slowly dying and being given over to factory-made fabrics. Our team is working with nearby villagers who rear silk cocoons, hand spin yarn, dye with natural methods and weave traditional fabric. We are reviving the potential of people and their ancient and ancestral traditions.
In Our Tribal Region Hope Often Comes As Hand-outs but There Is Another Way
We believe that the diligent work of a good company can make a difference and from our firsthand experience in Chillibreeze, it is transformative. By faithfully serving global customers our staff has become confident, independent and prosperous. They are responsible, capable leaders in their families and society. Many are earning more than they imagined possible. With vision and values, we built a successful company proving that a good company can make a difference.
With This Foundation, We Will Replicate and Spread This Vision
However, we face new challenges. Villagers prefer the easier expectations of non-profit organizations. Some have a mindset that companies will exploit them. Once our business is successful, we expect that our method of creating hope and opportunity will be contagious. Once people experience the benefits, the entitled mindset will end and prosperity with purpose will follow.
Video by Meghalaya Silk.