The embroidered Blue Silk Scarf was brought to Searsport, Maine by Florence Pendleton, who went to sea with her husband, James N. Pendleton. This would have been a very expensive, stylish, and cherished item in China during the late 19th Century. Silk is a natural fiber composed of mainly protein, some forms are able to be woven into textiles. The most famous form of silk is that found in the cocoons of Mulberry silk worms. Silk gives off a shimmering appearance due to the prism-like structure of the fiber, which allows the fiber to refract light at different angles and, therefore, produce varying refracted colors. Silk was discovered as early as 3500 BC in China and became a staple of the region’s pre-industrial international trade. The first evidence of silk trade is the discovery of silk in the hair of an Egyptian mummy from c. 1070 BCE. Empress Lei-zu is credited for the first development of silk cloth. Originally silk was only permitted for wear by people of royalty, however, rules became more relaxed over time allowing for the broader social strata to enjoy the unique fabric. During the Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE) silk was considered so valuable that it was used as currency.
Credit: Sam Brown