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  ABOUT SILK FABRICS
  Home • Fabric - Designer Fashion Fabrics • Silk Fabrics • ABOUT SILK FABRICS
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SMOOTH 'N' SILKY: THE MANY TYPES OF SILK

Silk is commonly referred to as the queen of textiles, and it has always occupied pride of place in the textile world ever since it was discovered nearly 5000 years ago in ancient China. What makes silk so attractive, apart from its strength and beauty, is the various forms into which it can be transformed. At Trim Fabric, we sell a wide range of silk fabrics, so why don't you just go through our silk fabrics inventory? Besides, we offer you a great chance to increase your knowledge of silk in many of its forms!

Silk Chiffon: Chiffon (from the French chiffe, or old rag) is a sheer fabric with a slightly coarse feel. It can be derived from cotton, silk or synthetic fibers, but has traditionally been associated with silk. The advantage with silk chiffon is that it can be dyed almost any shade, whereas polyester chiffon is difficult to dye. Silk chiffon is the fabric of choice when it comes to such garments as blouses, scarves and lingerie, but because of its fragile structure, it is an extremely difficult material to work with and should always be hand washed, because the rough and tumble of a washing machine can rip a silk chiffon garment to shreds.

Silk Organza: Like silk chiffon, silk organza is a diaphanous fabric in plain weave, but it is crisp where chiffon is soft. The crispness in silk organza is a result of the natural gum that remains on silk fibers after processing. The fabric is ideal for such garments as bridal gowns with an overlay, because it is stiff enough to stand out yet flexible enough not to add too much extra mass to the gown. For the same reason, silk organza is a perennial favorite when it comes to party dresses for little girls!

Silk Georgette: Silk georgette is yet another sheer lightweight fabric, once again made of silk or polyester, though it is slightly heavier and less sheer than chiffon. The twisted crÍpe fibers from which silk georgette is made give it a springy and flexible texture which in turn makes it difficult to sew. However, the sophisticated look of the fabric makes it ideal for evening gowns, formal wear, and scarves.

Silk Dupioni: The characteristic features of silk dupioni are its 'slubs', or knobby, horizontal lines incorporated in the weave. This is a versatile fabric that is particularly suited to shot colors, or a blending of two different colors that causes the material to look different under different lights. Silk dupioni is typically hand woven and colored using organic dyes. Because it has a tendency to shrink, silk dupioni should be washed before tailoring. Make sure you hand wash all silk dupioni garments, because this softens the material, while machine wash takes its gloss off. One of the greatest things about silk dupioni is that it hardly ever wrinkles and holds embroidery very well, so it is a great material for evening gowns, jackets, suits, and skirts. It is also fairly inexpensive, and is durable. However, silk dupioni doesn't work for tight-fitting garments because it pulls apart owing to the weave.

Silk Brocade: This material is obtained through a process whereby raw silk is first twisted, and its threads reeled and checked for uniformity. After processing, the yarn is bleached and the natural gum removed to bring out the yarn's sheen. The silk is then boiled in soap water and dyed. Silk brocade is heavily dependant on he right color to bring out its beauty. In India, where silk brocade is widely converted into saris and other garments, silk brocade embroidery also plays a major role. Silk brocade typically lends itself to stylish and elegant garments, as well as high-quality drapery and upholstery.

Silk Embroidery: Silk embroidery was originally an Oriental wall art created by ancient Chinese artisans who pulled fine threads of colored silk through a canvas to create lovely patterns. Silk embroidered pieces are thus ideal as gifts, collectibles, and souvenirs. In the West, silk embroidery artisans typically use fine silk strands to skillfully reproduce famous oil paintings like those of Vincent van Gogh and Leonardo da Vinci. It is painstaking, detailed work, and the colors can be truly splendid. Another kind of silk embroidery is double-sided silk embroidery, in which both sides of a transparent silk canvas are embroidered.

Silk Charmeuse: Charmeuse is made with a satin weave that is soft and drapes well. The fabric incorporates a satin weave, whereby the warp threads cross over three or more of the backing threads, so that the front of the fabric displays a glossy satin finish. Silk charmeuse is ideal for loose-fitting garments like gowns and dresses and lingerie, but is difficult to sew because of its slippery nature. Like most silk derivatives, it tears easily; so it is best to hand wash it gently or best, to dry clean it.

Silk Velvet:
Velvet can be made from any fiber, but it has traditionally been associated with silk. Silk velvet is produced on a special loom that can weave two pieces of velvet at the same time. The gloss of velvet and its excellent fall made it suitable for official robes and luxurious draperies. In medieval times, the most popular silk velvet was made in Italy, but during World War II, when silk became scarce, manufacturers began producing velvet from cotton and synthetic fibers. Today, most silk velvet fabric tends to be a blend of silk and rayon and a pure silk velvet fabric would be rare and expensive.

CrÍpe de Chine: This is a silk fabric of a gauzy yet crisp texture, woven from hard spun silk yarn that still has a coating of natural gum. The crisp and crimpy nature of crÍpe de chine is a result of the processes through which the gauze passes once it is woven. Available as single, double, three-ply and four-ply crÍpes, according to the nature of the yarn used in their manufacture, crÍpe de chine is usually dyed a dark solid color such as black.


FROM COCOON TO QUEEN OF TEXTILES: A SILKY STORY

Remember the name bombyx mori. It is the most important name in silk production, because we know it as the silkworm, from which the world's silk is derived. The silkworm is actually a generic name for silk-producing larvae of different species of moths, though the larva is actually a caterpillar that matures into a moth after a period spent as a cocoon. It is this cocoon that is harvested to produce silk. How thread spun by the bombyx mori eventually ends up as a silk scarf is a long and highly interesting story, with numerous sub-plots thrown in.

Our story begins in ancient China, in about 2700 B.C., and while the tale may not necessarily be true in all its aspects, it certainly proves that silk as a fabric was first used in China. To return to the story, Emperor Huang-Ti asked a young Chinese woman called Hsi-Ling-Shi (some accounts say she was the wife of the Emperor, which adds the touch of glamour that every story needs) to find out what was eating the leaves of the mulberry trees in his garden.

Hsi-Ling-Shi duly investigated the matter, and found the trees infested with little white worms that spun glossy cocoons. While examining one of the cocoons closely, she accidentally dropped it into her hot tea (or it may have been a bowl of hot water) and a gossamer strand emanated from the cocoon. As Hsi-Ling-Shi drew it out, it unwound as a single strand of some shiny material.

That was it. That simple accident was at the root of the discovery of one the finest fabrics the world has known, derived from one of nature's strongest fibers. Hsi-Ling-Shi is also credited with having discovered the earliest silk reel, which converted the silk strands into thread. However, silk was a secret that the Chinese were not willing to share and for almost 3000 years, death was the penalty for anyone who revealed the art of silk making to the outside world, which had delightedly welcomed this Chinese export and was desperate to know more about it.

Nevertheless, since you can't keep a good thing down forever, silk and its secrets eventually made their way to the Western world via a celebrated trade route opened in 139 B.C. Appropriately called the Silk Route, it was the world's longest trade route and led from China to important ports on the Mediterranean Sea. By 300 A.D., Japan and India were also producing silk, and they continue to do so.

Despite the loss of China's monopoly, however, Europe and America were not to achieve significant success in the making of silk until the 18th and 19th centuries, when the Industrial Revolution was taking place. Once it reached these continents, however, silk production became a major industry, particularly in England, which became a leading silk manufacturer thanks to the use of advanced silk-weaving looms, power looms and roller printing.

Today, silk manufacturing continues to be one of the principal industries in Thailand, Japan, India and China. The worldwide demand for silk shows no signs of abating, and we look forward to many happy sessions as we join you in exploring the intricacies of this rich and varied fabric.

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