In this article, we’ll examine what silk is and how to take care of it. Please keep reading.
“Smooth as silk” might come to mind when you think of silk. The natural fiber is known for its sheen, luster, durability, and strength, silk has a long history of international trade.
Continue reading for more details if silk is of interest to you.
What is Silk?
Silk is a shimmering fabric renowned for its satin texture and esteemed for being a luxurious fabric. It is the strongest natural protein fiber and is primarily composed of fibroin.
The most widely used silk is created by silkworms, which are tiny animals that primarily inhabit mulberry leaves. A silk producer harvests the protective cocoon they have made for themselves. A total of 80,000 tons of silk are produced annually on average throughout the world, with China producing roughly 70% of that total.
Read More: What is Mulberry Silk?
Where Does Silk Come From?
Lei Zu was drinking in a wild mulberry bush when some wild cocoons fell into her bowl…
The origins of silk can be traced to China, where the process of making the fabric was kept a secret for more than 2,000 years. As the oldest discovered example of silk has been dated to 3630 BC, the origins of silk can be traced back to the Chinese Neolithic period.
China, India, Uzbekistan, Brazil, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, and Iran are currently the top producers of silk. Even though silk only makes up about 0.2% of the global textile market, it is produced in 60 different nations worldwide.
The largest producer and primary supplier of silk in the world are China, followed by India.
How is Silk Made?
Although the production of silk has increased significantly over the past century, the methods used to create this fabric are still largely the same as they were in antiquity.
In order to stop the mature worms from emerging, silkworm breeders typically subject the harvested cocoons to high heat. Some animal rights activists object to this practice; they claim that it is possible to harvest silk without killing silkworms, but this claim is not given much weight.
The threads that the silkworms painstakingly laced together are carefully removed after the cocoons have been heated. To achieve this, a small amount of the glue-like sericin, which silkworms excrete to form their metamorphosis chambers, may be removed from the silk cocoons by briefly boiling them.
A fully unraveled cocoon yields a single string of silk because silkworms construct their cocoons from one single, long strand of fiber. A silk worker or a robotic device will brush the cocoon to locate the frayed end and load it through a porcelain eyelet onto a reel that unravels the silk strand to unravel the cocoon.
The silk strand automatically joins another strand as it loads onto the reel to form a continuous string. The silk strand’s sericin aids in the strands’ adhesion to one another. Then, to create yarn, the silk producers twist these lengthy strings together.
The silk yarn is then put through a roller to make it more uniform after going through a variety of post-production processes to give it the desired characteristics. The yarn is currently prepared for weaving into a fabric or another type of textile.
Most silk fabric producers dye and/or bleach their yarn before weaving it. These producers may also steam or stiffen silk to give it desired qualities.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Silk Fabric?
Silk is known for its beautiful drape and absorbent nature, along with other positive factors, including:
- Texture. Silk has a high-end, luxurious feel and a flattering sheen. It is also incredibly soft.
- Strength and durability. Although some of its strength is lost when it gets wet, it is one of the strongest natural fibers. For more durability, silk is frequently combined with other fibers like cotton.
- Elasticity. Because of its flexibility, the substance is excellent for upholstery and clothing.
- Absorbency. One of the most absorbent materials, silk manages moisture well in clothing.
However, silk has some drawbacks as well, including:
- Static cling. The material can experience a lot of static since it does not conduct electricity well.
- Shrinkage. A silk clothing item should always be dry cleaned or the fabric should be washed before the clothing item is constructed because the fabric shrinks in the wash.
Uses for Silk Fabric
Although silk is primarily used in clothing and household items, it is also used in unexpected places like bicycle tires and medicine.
Due to its absorbent qualities and ability to wick away moisture, silk is excellent for summer clothing, and due to its low conductivity, it is also a go-to fabric for winter clothing. Here are a few uses for the substance that are among its many.
- Bridal and formal wear. Silk’s lovely drape and the long floats of yarn on one side give it a dressy, lustrous appearance, which is why it is a mainstay of many gowns and dresses.
- Ties and scarves. The material is perfect for accessories because of its durability and color nuances. Heavy silk is frequently used to make high-end ties because it produces intricate patterns, vibrant colors, and a piece of sturdy fabric. Silk is another excellent fabric for scarves because it is both aesthetically pleasing and warm.
- Bedding. Silk sheets are the epitome of luxury, and the fabric’s suppleness and capacity for absorption make them a standout choice for the bedroom.
- Parachutes. Due to its durability and elasticity, silk was initially used for parachutes, but nylon is now more frequently used.
- Upholstery. Silk is used as a covering for pillows and furniture because of its strength and durability, which makes it a long-lasting material.
- Wall hangings. Silk is frequently used to weave decorative wall hangings because it is a lovely fabric that reacts dynamically to dyes and colors.
- Bicycle tires. Due to the substance’s light weight, sturdiness, and flexibility, it is occasionally used in tire casings. The casings can also be made from nylon and cotton since silk can be pricey.
- Surgical sutures. Silk has amazing medical applications because it is a natural material. The substance is not autoimmune-provoking and cannot be absorbed by the body.
Why is Silk So Smooth?
Silk fibers are smooth, unlike those in cotton, wool, and other natural fabrics. We need to take another look at silk’s makeup to understand where its silky texture comes from.
We discovered that the fibroin protein serves as the structural core of silk. About 25% of the sericin protein is also found in silk. Silk’s sericin, which has a gooey substance and functions as glue, Fibroin filaments are coated with sericin to aid in their ability to adhere to one another.
The removal of sericin from the silk fiber is one of the main elements that contribute to silk’s smooth texture. Degumming is the procedure used to make silk supple and lustrous.
Silk can feel rough rather than smooth if it is not degummed. Additionally, because of this, dyeing silk becomes more difficult, which is undesirable for the production of silk clothing. Silk chiffon is an illustration of a type of silk fabric that still contains some sericin.
Not all of the gum is removed from the silk chiffon. In contrast to fully degummed silk varieties like silk charmeuse (also known as silk satin), it has a more grainy and coarse texture.
How much the silk yarn is turned or twisted is another aspect that can affect how smooth fabric is made of silk. The silk’s texture becomes crisper as the yarn is twisted more.
Silk thread that has been tightly wrapped, for instance, is used to create silk crepe. Compared to silk charmeuse, which is made of thread with little to no twist, silk crepe fabrics have a rougher texture as result.
How Much Does Silk Fabric Cost?
Quarterly reports on the current costs of silk in China are published by the website EmergingTextiles.com. Chinese silk currently costs between $50 and $55 per kilogram, according to the most recent report. The prices of the silk produced in India are also monitored by the Indian government.
There is no getting around the price of silk fabric. Silk is a difficult fabric to manufacture, and shipping costs make it expensive to transfer silk from its place of origin to the final consumer. Bear in mind, though, that when making clothing, a kilogram of raw silk can go a long way.
How to Care for Your Silk Products?
Silk has historically been a fabric that should only be dry cleaned because of its delicate structure. The UK Silk Association advises dry cleaning as the most secure way to clean fabrics made entirely of silk as a result.
- Always use a liquid detergent with a pH of 7, ideally one made especially for silk fabrics. You can also use a small amount of shampoo, which is milder than regular washing detergent and will also get rid of any product buildup. Make sure the water is not warmer than 30 degrees Celsius.
- Use caution and gentleness when handling your products, and make sure to rinse them well after washing to get rid of any excess detergent. Avoid soaking silk for long periods of time because it will shrink after being in the water for a long time. We advise taking it to a dry cleaner for difficult stains.
- Fold and compress dampness out of the way to dry. Lay your Luna or pillowcase flat on a towel, then roll it up in the towel to wick away any extra moisture. Avoid wringing or squeezing the towel because doing so could harm the silk fabric.
- Leave the dried portion to air dry away from direct sunlight.
- You can extend the life of your investment by washing it just once a week to maintain the silk’s quality and shape.
Even though silk is stronger than steel as a thread and tougher than it appears, it should still be handled carefully. You can continue to reap the rewards for up to 9 months if you take good care of yourself.
A naturally occurring protein fiber is silk. In order to be considered natural, an item must be derived from an animal, such as a type of clam or a moth. Although a wide variety of insects are capable of producing silk, the caterpillar-like moth larvae are the ones responsible for our familiarity with the material.
Silk is strong despite being thin, making it a long-lasting fabric. However, exposure to excessive sunlight and moisture can cause damage. This means that because the fabric shrinks easily, washing it is difficult. Clothing should be dry-cleaned in order to prevent that.
Why is Silk Very Expensive?
It takes a long time to produce silk, starting with raising the silkworms and ending with spinning the cocoons. With the demand for silk and the declining availability of silkworms, the entire process has become expensive.
Why is Chinese Silk Valuable?
Silk was a symbol of wealth and power in ancient China because only the rich and those in authority were allowed to wear silk garments, while poor people were prevented from wearing it. A nettle-like plant called ramie or hemp was then used to make clothing for the underprivileged. But eventually, regular people began to wear silk.