My past research centered around pre-1600 rearing methods the domestic silkworm Bombyx mori. My class notes, publications, and Arts & Sciences entry for this research can be found in the links to the right.
My current research and ongoing project is based on pre-1600 methods of rearing of the wild silkworm Atheraea pernyi, also know as the Chinese Oak silkworm. I have a blog that catalogs my online work with them (see my Bug Blog link).
I became interested in wild silkworms after I had raised many generations of domestic silkworms. I had seen pictures of the wild silkworms and silk moths and was amazed at how beautiful they were. I did a little research and found that a silk garment dating back to about 120 BCE had been analyzed for DNA and found to contain silk from A. pernyi. Since that gave me proof that the silk of A. pernyi was used in ancient China, I decided to try rearing them myself.
I soon found that A. pernyi is considered a plant pest in the United States and is not established here. I applied for and received a permit from the United States Department of Agriculture allowing me to raise these silkworms. Since then I've been trying to establish a colony of the silkworms, but have not had success--until recently.
My current goal is to learn to reel the A. pernyi cocoons with a small hand operated silk reeling machine invented in Japan. There is evidence that one of the first machines that were used, called ushikubi, existed in Japan in 1643. However I will be using a modified version of the machine that is called a zakuri. The ancient ushikubi were difficult to learn how to use and could give a poor silk quality even if the worker was extremely skilled, while the zakuri design is improved and should be easier for me to produce a better quality silk.
After the reeling process I'll need to learn how to throw the silk, which is a method of twisting and doubling the threads to make a sturdier floss that can be woven. After throwing, I'll learn about dying, and finally plan to weave the silk into something, perhaps some trim.