Silk was a rare valuable commodity and mercantile on Kelewan.
Wars had been fought to control the silk trade, until imperial edict allowed for neither guild nor noble to monopolize it and Cho-ja held the secret of its making. Silk could be gained only through trade.
Northern silk varied in quality and availability. Silk trade in the south was not an established industry.
Specialized weavers and dyers were bred by a Cho-ja queen. They had comblike appendages behind their foreclaws, and an extra fixture behind their "thumbs".
The spinners took drifts of delicate raw silk fibres, their forelimbs carded them and the midlimbs spun them into thread. The strands were led out of their chamber through a slot in the wall. There, dyers laboured over cauldrons, setting colour into the threads.
The fibres passed through yet another partition, where small, winged drone females fanned the air to dry them. Then the passage opened out into a wide, bright chamber where weavers caught up the strands and threaded the fine silk weft through the warp into cloths.