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Silk is one of the oldest known textile fibers, and according to Chinese tradition was used as far back as the 27th Century BC. The silkworm moth was originally a native of China and for about 30 centuries the gathering and harvesting of silk was a secret process known only to the Chinese.

Tradition credits the 14 year old bride of the Emperor Huang Ti with the discovery of silk, when as legend has it a cocoon fell into her cup of tea. The Chinese managed to closely guard the secret (by death) of silk for almost 3,000 years, before other eastern countries learnt of its origin.

This magnificent fabric was reserved only for royalty, until trade in silk eventually spread to the western world. It led to the creation of the famous Silk Road trading route.





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Bombyx Mori Silk Estate

Bombyx Mori Silk Estate is one of only two commercial silkworm farms in South Africa. The Estate takes the latin scientific name for the mulberry silk moth, which is farmed here to produce a very high quality silk which is made into duvets and refined into hypoallergenic cosmetic products. The farmed silkworm population peaks at around 250,000 in summer months, dropping to 50,000 in winter.

The eggs from which the larvae pupate were originally imported from China, especially for the quality of the large white cocoon that they spin.

South Africa, and this region in particular, is home to Mopane worm (Gonometa Rufobruuea), which feeds on the eponymous or Camel Thorn trees' leaves but it spins a very earthy, rough cocoon not well suited to the final products.

The Estate runs tours on the hour, every hour from 9am until 3pm, and seven days of the week. These explain the history of silk and demonstrate how the silkworms are organically farmed and the cocoons processed into the final products. A shop carries the lines derived from Bombyx Mori's silk. The Cotton Club Cafe is an excellent place for lunch - see the sample menu below.

Duvet manufacture

Each duvet is hand-crafted by a team of trained ladies in the factory in Hoedspruit, and can be created in the size, and with the number of layers, that you require. Each layer has 120g of silk per square meter with the exception of the 1 layer duvet, in which 150g per square meter is used

The silk is stretched and pulled to the length of the duvet being made. This is a time consuming process and requires 4 people to stretch each segment of silk. The silk is able to stretch due to its strength, elasticity and length (there is up to 1.8km of thread in each cocoon). Stretching the silk enables the development of a grid of silk within the duvet which prevents it from bunching or breaking up.

During the process of stretching the silk it is also fluffed, filling the fibers with air, creating the cloud like appearance and feel of the batting.

Once the silk is fluffed, it is laid lengthways on top of a 100% pure cotton percale cover. The second layer is laid cross ways on top of the first, so creating the grid. This is repeated according to the number of layers required per duvet. The 1 layer duvets are also gridded, which is why the weight is slightly thicker per square meter compared to the other duvets.

Once the layering is complete another percale cover is placed on top. The duvet is then finished with double stitching around the seams to increase its strength and durability.

The Bombyx Mori Silk Estate is on the opposite side of the road, close to the Swadini turn off, on the R531 between Klaserie and the Khamai Reptile Park to the west of Hoedspruit. It is close to Kampersrus.