Silk, A Luxurious Fabric With a Rich History

Silk is one of the most desired, luxurious and popular natural fibres with a rich history. The Roman historian Pliny in 70 BC, quoted in his Natural History 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 that silk was discovered by a Chinese Empress and was a guarded secret that passed through many centuries until it was revealed. Silk fabric has been one of the favourites owing to its lightweight, rich and sophisticated feel and because of its famous history.

Spinning tools, silk thread and fabric fragments were found from sites along the lower Yangzi River in China unravelling the origins of culture much earlier in history. Silk fabric is made from two continuous filaments cemented together and used to form the cocoon of the silkworm. It is said that India learned of silk culture when a Chinese princess married an Indian prince.

Silk Characteristics

  • Rich, light and luxurious.
  • Comfortable and absorbent.
  • It is one of the strongest natural fabric.
  • Not resistant to abrasions, sunlight or air impurities, which can result in fading of the colour.
  • Water spots can be easily visible. Silk fabric should be dry cleaned.
  • Silk fabric does not resist wrinkling.

Producing Silk Fabric From Cocoon to Raw Silk
Silkworms are used to cultivate silk by feeding on mulberry leaves. These worms increase their body size by almost 10,000 times within a very short time span. After eating for a month, the silkworms stop and attach themselves to grass and start spinning their cocoons. This is when human intervention takes place between the stage of spinning a cocoon and before the hatching of a worm. The cocoon is soaked in hot water and a fine thread, the silk fibre, is unravelled and weaved into fabric.

Washing and bleaching of the silk thread
After the fibre has been extracted, it needs to be thoroughly washed to get rid of the glutinous substance, which may also be bleached.

Weaving
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 quality than machine woven. Handmade silk can entail intricate designs with various coloured threads which provide for a wide variety of choices for clothing and upholstery. As a point of reference, good quality silk starts at approximately 2,000 threads per meter width.

Dyeing, Printing and Finishing
After the silk fibre is woven, it is either yarn dyed or dyed woven in diverse patterns. Some of the popular yarn-dyed fabrics include taffeta, duchess, satin and others. Different printing methods like screen printing, block printing and roller printing are used to imprint patterns on the silk fabric. The finishing process allows the fabric to give it the final desired look and can be either physical or chemical. Finishing treatments result in different effects such as crease proofing, waterproofing or fireproofing.

Apart from the traditional clothing uses, silk fabric has been frequently used in home furnishing, bedding and upholstery fabric. It is used in quilts and as upholstery fabric to bestow any piece of furniture with a timeless and rich appeal. Silk fabric creates a luxurious, timeless look for your apparel or your whole home.