What is silk fabric?
Silk fabric is widely known as the most luxurious and beautiful fabric in the world. This natural fabric is made from the larvae of the mulberry silkworm to construct their cocoons. It is also a generalised term for any fabric constructed using silk yarns or fibres.
Silk is renowned for its lustrous appearance, fine quality, beautiful drape and soft handle. It is a highly-priced fabric, mainly due to the time-consuming and delicate process involved to turn the thread into a yarn.
How is it manufactured?
The commercial process of making silk fabric is complex and labour intensive.
Silk’s textile origins date back to 6000 BC China. Silk is made from a continuous filament fibre spun by silkworms. Silkworms lay their eggs on special paper and eat only fresh mulberry leaves; hence their name. The freshly hatched larvae will eat 50,000 times their initial weight during this period.
35 days after hatching from their eggs, the silkworm is 10,000 times heavier than when it first hatched and is ready to begin the process of spinning its cocoon which takes about 3-8 days to make.
At this stage, the cocoon is treated with hot air, steam or boiling water. Silk is then unbound from the cocoon by softening the sericin (the natural gum coating) and then very carefully unwound. The sericin protects the silk, so it is left on until the silk is processed and sometimes until after it is woven.
Every cocoon can yield up to 1,000 yards of raw silk fabric thread. This thread is spun to produce a yarn of silk.
Purposes of printed silk fabric
Although silk fabric is such a luxurious and high-end fabric, it is still used for several end uses, in a number of different industries.
- Fashion: shirts, skirts, dresses, scarves, lingerie, accessories
- Furnishings: upholstery, wall coverings, curtains and drapes, bedding, rugs, wall hangings
- Industrial: parachutes, bicycle tires, duvet fillings, gunpowder bags
With a wealth of remarkable properties and qualities, silk fabric is an extremely popular and sought-after natural fabric to work with and wear.
Some of its most renowned properties include:
- Beautiful drape
- Associated with richness and royalty
- Strong and durable
- Low conductivity
- Moisture wicking
- Fabric surface texture ripples like water
Advantages of silk fabric
Although China maintained a monopoly on the silk trade for thousands of years, with advances in textile technology silk fabric is highly available. You can find a variety of silk fabric online with the option to choose printed silk fabric or plain fabric.
Besides its luxurious softness and opulence and undeniable beauty, silk has a lot of advantages over many other fabrics; both natural and synthetic. Due to its natural protein structure, silk is the most hyper-allergenic of all fabrics. This is a moisture-wicking fabric which can absorb up to 30% of its own weight in moisture without making the wearer feel damp and uncomfortable.
Silk also blends seamlessly with other fabrics and takes colour very well. Sewers and dressmakers enjoy creating with silk as it is easy to work with.
In contrast to its delicate appearance, one of the most surprising advantages of silk fabric is that it is actually strong as well as robust and is known to be the strongest natural fibre available.