What You Need to Know About Silk

Silk is the royalty’s favorite fabric and had its beginnings in China. It has that smooth light texture that is soft and cool to the touch. It has been associated with kings and queens of Europe and is the select fabric used because of its luster and shine. While silk looks elegant and fragile at the same time, it is nonetheless one of the strongest fabrics. Certain types are said to be even stronger than steel. Silk is the uber fabric of the century. In this post, you’ll learn all about the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of silk. Who knows, you could even end up a silk expert!

What is Silk?

Silk is made from the cocoon of silkworms. These are not silkworms per se but are moth larvae from specific species. The Bombyx mori is more commonly used for silkworm propagation while the Antheraea mylitta, another species, is a rare species of moth not commonly used but can produce heavier fiber when utilized.

Although silk is created from larvae cocoon, spiders can also produce silk. The cost of producing a fabric the size of a small handkerchief needs as many as 10,000 spiders and years of work making it an unlikely commercial venture.

What are the DifferentTypes of Silk?

The top silk producer is China, with India running in second. On the other hand, Japan is the world’s largest silk consumer. Silk comes in different several different types.

Mulberry
Mulberry silk is the most common type used. It is also the highest quality among silks. It is made from the cocoon of the Bombyx mori which feeds only on mulberry leaves.

Tasar
Tasar silk is also referred to as tussah, kosa or tussar silk and is a type of wild silk produced by caterpillars other than the mulberry worm. It is mostly from the cocoon of the moth genus Antheraea. The species under this genus live in wild forests and the resulting silk has a deep gold color, unique to this type. Tasar silk is mostly produced in India, China, Sri Lanka and Japan.

Eri
While Tasar and Mulberry silks are made by killing the larvae, Eri silk on the other hand is a non-violent variety which is made without killing the larvae resulting to a unique silk known as Ahimsa silk. The larvae leaves its cocoon which is then harvested. It is wooly, a bit coarse and more moisture absorbent than the other silks but is still soft and lustrous. It is strong, durable and commonly combined with other organic and natural fibers.

Muga
Another peculiar silk is the Muga silk. Originally produced in the satte of Assam in India, is fine, glossy and durable. Its shine increases as the silk ages. Garments made of muga silk are said to be a favorite family heirloom as it tends to outlive the owner.

Anaphe
Anaphe silk is produced in South and Central Africa and is also commonly referred to as African silk. This silk is produced from the cocoon of the Anaphe panda. The cocoons are collected only after the moths emerge. It is durable and commonly used as seat cover. Due to the over exploitation of the Anaphe, silk processing or sericulture has lead to its dwindling population.To create a sustainable sericulture in Africa proposals have been made to domesticate the Anaphe moth.

Sea
Mussels can also produce silk! This silk is also known as sea silk. This silk is not traded today but was mentioned in history. A dwindling population of people who know the method of creating the rare fabric and the difficulty of procuring the material are some of the reasons why you can almost never see a sea silk on sale.

Some Terminologies
Muga, Tussar, Eri are referred to as wild silks. If you hear the word Vanya – that means ‘wild’ in Sanskrit and is used to refer to wild silks so don’t get confused with the term as another kind of silk.

Another term to familiarize yourself with is katan, this refers to the method of twisting together silk filaments to create a stronger and sturdies silk. It does not refer to the silk’s origin.

How Does a Manufacturer Turn Silk into Fabric?

Silk is made by harvesting the cocoons at the peril of the larvae. With the exception of Ahimsa or Eri silk and some wild varieties of moths used in silk production, the usual process entails killing the larvae.

Eri is less lustrous and shiny than the mulberry silk because the manufacturers wait for the cocoon to break so the silk strand is broken but is rated A by animal lovers while mulberry silk which requires boiling or harming the larvae is rated as B although the silk produced is more shiny and has better texture.

If you want an all-natural silk then Eri is also the way to go. It is definitely a work of love because workers manually put the strands together (which was broken through by the emerging moth).

What is the Difference Between Silk and Satin?

You can go either way on using satin or silk to maintain your hair texture and skin. Both produce lesser friction and are not moisture absorbent. However, there are differences to consider when choosing which fabric to use.

So should you use silk or satin? The answer is ‘it depends’. Silk is made of animal protein fiber produced by using larvae cocoons. It is natural and hypoallergenic, best for sensitive skin. On the other hand, satin can be either natural or synthetic. No, Satin is not a type of fabric and it does not tell you whether it is animal product or synthetic. Satin refers to the manner or process of weaving the threads together. Satin can be made from synthetic fibers and from natural materials like cotton or wool. Any fabric can be satin even silk! Note that the weave creates a dull reverse even when silk is used as material.

If you want to use natural fabric then silk is the way to go. Although, satin is sold at a cheaper price, buying it would mean you have to pay close attention to the ratio of the materials used (the fabric label usually includes that). Check the way it drapes and find out if it uses other fabrics you may be allergic to. As a rue of thumb: always check what the satin is made of. So choosing between satin or silk is really not an issue.

Was that too Much Truth?

Silk processing generally means boiling the pupae alive and that’s enough to make you cringe. Whether you are a sewer, or enjoy the wearing and using silk products, you have the power of choice now that you have been equipped with the knowledge of all things silk.

You can always choose which route to go between synthetic satin options and the non-violent silk types such as eri silk. Armed with the information you have gathered from reading this article, you will never look at silk the same way again!

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