Silk Fabric Buying Guide
Silk is one of the most desired and popular natural fibers with a rich history. Pliny, the Roman historian, quoted in his Natural History in 70 BC that “Silk was obtained by removing the down from the leaves with the help of water…". It is interesting to note that for more than two thousand years the Chinese kept the secret of silk altogether to themselves. It is believed to be discovered by a Chinese Empress Hsi Ling Shi and was a guarded secret that passed through many centuries till it was discovered. Talking of silk fabric in furnishing, it has been one of the favorites owing to its light weight, rich and sophisticated feel, and because of its famous history. Interestingly, a more recent archeological survey reveals a small ivory cup carved with a silkworm design predicted to be between 6000 and 7000 years old.
Spinning tools, silk thread and fabric fragments were found from sites along the lower Yangzi River in China unraveling the origins of sericulture much earlier in history. There is a story that two monks smuggled seeds of the mulberry tree and silkworm eggs out of China by hiding them in their walking sticks. Silk is made from two continuous filaments cemented together and used to form the cocoon of the silkworm. It is again said that India learnt of silk culture when a Chinese princess married an Indian prince. The major producer and exporter of silk is Japan, followed by India and Brazil.
Silk Characteristics • Rich, Light and luxurious. • Comfortable and absorbent • It is one of the strongest natural fabric. • Not resistant to abrasions and sunlight and air impurities, resulting in fading of the color. • Water spots can be easily visible. The fabric should be dry cleaned. • Silk fabric do not resist wrinkle. Producing silk From Cocoon to Yarn : Sericulture has a old history by which silkworms are used to cultivate silk by feeding them on mulberry leaves. The worms increase their body size by almost 10,000 times within a very short span of time. The silk worms stop eating by the end of a month and attach itself to straw to start spinning its cocoon. The worm ceases to eat by the end of thirty days and attach itself to a piece of straw and begins to spin its cocoon.
This is when human intervention takes place between the stage of spinning a cocoon and before the hatching of worm, the cocoon is soaked in hot water and a fine thread is unraveled which is the silk fiber, later weaved into fabric. Washing and bleaching of the silk thread after the fiber has been extracted, it needs to be thoroughly washed to get rid of the glutinous substance, which may also be bleached. Weaving : one of the most crucial steps in producing silk, weaving is a process that interweaves by warp and weft yarns. Silk can be woven by hand or machine, while weaving is a process where the fabric is created by interlacing the warp yarns and the weft yarns. The handmade yarn is considered better than the machine. Handmade silk can entail delicate designs in different colored threads offering wide variety for clothing and upholstery. There are modern machines that use lances, projectiles, jet of compressed air to shoot the weft-yarn between the warp-yarns. As to the quality, any good quality silk starts at app. 2000 threads per meter width. Dyeing, Printing and Finishing : Once woven, silk is either yarn-dyed or dyed-woven in different patterns.
You can see different shades in silk and some of the popular yarn-dyed fabrics includes taffeta, duchess, satin and others. Silk Printing allows in fashioning different patterns to the fabric. Different methods like screen printing block printing and roller printing is used to imprint patterns on the silk fabric. The embroidery process is like adding embellishment and bestows the fabric with great look. Silk cushions in screen print and embroidery make great furnishing items. Finishing process allows the fabric to give it the desired effect. It is either physical or chemical. Different treatments result in different effects like crease-proofing, water-proofing, fire-proofing etc. Final soaking in a chemical solution : This process helps to preserve the sheen and luster of the silk fabric. It adds weight and makes the fabric soft, smooth, easy to iron and wrinkle resistant.
Use of silk in home furnishing and bedding : Apart from the traditional use in clothing, silk has been popularly used as bedding and furnishing item at home. It is used in quilts and as upholstery fabric to bestow any piece of furniture with a timeless and rich appeal. Upholstery fabric : A great upholstery fabric, silk is used in home furnishing allowing any room a luxurious look like quilts, curtains, sheets, pillowcases, and throws. Since silk is not a good resistant to abrasion, it should be taken extra care.