All my plans to be regular with blog posts haven’t been much of a success I’m sorry to say. But here I am again and better late than never! Before I get on with a topic that’s been on my mind for quite a while now, here’s a quick update about my whereabouts and  business goings on.

I continue to be at just the three markets – Bunbury Markets, Busselton Foreshore Markets and Boyanup Farmers Market. I’ve had invitations to other events but continue to decline due to my decision to stick as far as possible to half day regular markets and ones where I don’t have to travel over half an hour. Having said that, a lot of my customers are also availing of the convenience of my online store and I’m mailing items like Brad’s range of chilli sauces, birthday candles, soaps and more across the state and country. EcoWarehouse in Bunbury has also become a popular spot for customers to pick up some of my items as they currently have the largest range of my products.

My eri silk range has been generating a lot of interest and includes an entomologist from the United States with a very long academic interest and association with silkworms including the Samia Ricini which produces the eri silk. Professor Richard S Peigler from the University of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio, Texas, has written several technical papers and co-authored “Eri Silk- Cocoon to Cloth”.  He has travelled extensively in his research and study of what is categorised as wild silks. This of course now leads to the topic of eri silk often touted as “peace silk”. Professor Peigler debunks the claim made by many online sellers of eri silk as being one produced without any harm to the silk worm.

Eri silk is often promoted by internet sellers as a type of ahimsa silk, the so-called peace silk. The idea is that since silk from eri cocoons can be used after the moth has exited, it is not necessary to kill the pupae, and so the moths are allowed to fly free into the rainforest to complete their life cycle. Loaded terms like cruelty-free and non-violent are employed with great effect. However, the claim that eri silk is a peace silk has no basis in fact, because eri silkmoths cannot fly, being a fully domesticated form that does not and cannot exist in nature, just like mulberry silkworms (Bombyx mori). The pupae are extracted and used to feed poultry or swine in some places, but more often are eaten by the Tribals who practice ericulture in the Northeast of India. This is a valuable source of protein for many people in Asia. Badola, K & Peigler, R (2013). Eri Silk- Cocoon to Cloth. Dehradun: Bishen Singh Mahendra Pal Singh

I first came across the term “ahimsa” or “peace” silk when approached by an online supplier fully aware that the silks that I was sourcing were certainly not that. My experience is in line with the fact that the silk worms and pupae are considered a delicacy in the communities rearing eri silk. This brings to mind the dubious methods that can often be employed to increase the sale factor of a product.

My association with eri silk goes back to the early years growing up in the north-eastern state of Assam. I remember these generous sized pure silk shawls being used by my dad with the onset of cooler weather – memories of a beige swathe of material giving warmth and comfort. There were other uses as well. We took them on train journeys when we tagged along with dad as a family. They were light to pack and substantial enough as a cover when we retired for the night. They were  hardy and often functioned as a baby carrier and sling. Mum would deftly place my youngest sister on her back and secure her up with the shawl tied to the front. Many years later I repeated this with my own children, using one of dad’s old shawls that I still proudly have in my collection.

Eri silk may not be peace silk but it is one of the best silks that I continue to work with – versatile and durable, rustic with the look of linen which I also love and a provenance close to my parent’s home.