Silk is known for its smooth, shimmering and lustrous texture. It is one of the strongest natural fibers today. You can weave and process it in many ways. This determines its texture, appearance, and use.
As the strongest natural protein fiber, you can also blend it with other fibers to create a sturdy and more versatile fabric.
Silk is produced from a tiny creature called a silkworm. It feeds entirely on the mulberry leaves. This creature spins a protective cocoon around itself. The cocoon is harvested and used for silk production.
The cultivation of silkworms for the purpose of silk production is known as sericulture. Just in brief, what does sericulture entail? Sericulture involves raising healthy eggs through the chrysalis stage when the worm is encased in its silky cocoon.
The chrysalis inside is destroyed before it can break out of the cocoon so that the precious silk filament remains intact. One cocoon produces between 1,000 and 2,000 feet of silk filament.
One of the distinguishing features of the wild silkworm and the cultivated silkworm is that the wild species produce silk that is three times heavier than silk from cultivated species.
Properties of silk
Some of the general properties of silk are;
- Very strong: Silk fiber can be very strong when dry and somehow weak when it’s wet. That’s why most fabrics made from silk last longer.
- Good elasticity
- Very resilient
- Absorbency is high. This makes the fabric warm in winter and cool in summer
- Good flexibility
- Very lightweight
When you see silk up close, you’ll notice that it shimmers. This is due to the prism-like triangular structure of the silk fibers.
These fibers refract light at different angles producing different colors. This explains the shimmering appearance of the silk fabric.
Silk is neither wrinkle nor sun resistant. Overexposure to sunlight weakens and fades the fabric. Dry cleaning will also increase the life and beauty of silk fiber.
Types of silk
Silk exudes elegance and sophistication by its shine and opulence. It has several attributes which put it above other fibers.
Silk is both softer than a human hair but as strong as wire. It is resistant to dust and moths.
There are several types of silk commercially known and produced around the world. Some of the most common types of silks include
The bulk of silk produced around the world is derived from the mulberry variety. The mulberry silk generally refers to the silk from a mulberry worm.
This type of silk is produced by the Bombyx mori silkworm which feeds entirely on mulberry bushes. This is where it derives its name from. The silkworms are entirely domesticated and reared indoors.
Mulberry silk is popular around the world but especially in China, Japan, and Korea. The production of the silk involves killing the worms in their cocoons to extract the silk fiber.
The disadvantage of using mulberry silk is that it requires extra care to maintain its smooth texture.
It is the most difficult silk to produce as spiders cannot be bred like silkworms and do not produce as much silk as silkworms.
Spider silk is produced from different species including Nephila madagascarensis. The accumulated fiber is reeled from the abdominal segment four or five times a month.
This silk variety is soft and fine in texture.
The cost of producing silk is so high that it is not used in the textile industry. It is one of the most durable types of silk used in the production of bulletproof vests and wear-resistant clothes.
Tasar silk is a type of wild silk produced by caterpillars other than the mulberry worm. It is produced from the Tasar silkworm which belongs to the genus Antheraea.
The Chinese Tasar silkworm produces the largest quantity of silk followed by the Indian Tasar silkworm.
The Japanese Tasar silkworm produces a green silk thread. Most of the Tasar silk is copper in color and are mainly used in furnishing and interior since they are the strongest fibers in the world.
Tasar silk is produced by reeling the cocoons of the Tasar silkworm. The silk is only available in its natural form since it is very tough to dye.
Some of the uses of silk
Silk can be made into different products. The uses of silk are practically endless. Let’s take a look at some of the products made from silk fiber.
Fashion can be unpredictable, trends come and go. But fabric from silk has withstood the test of time, silk has been used in garment manufacture for ages. Clothes made from silk usually have a high price and are perceived to be of high quality.
The woven silk fiber makes soft, flowing nightgowns, underwear and robes. Dupioni is a type of Indian silk used in making clothing, popularly known as saree in India. These silk Sarees are available at Stylecaret.
Silk wall coverings give a finishing touch to bedrooms and living rooms. Silk fiber for home furnishings is best used in rooms that receive less traffic and wear as it does water spot and isn’t stain resistant.
Silk throws and pillows can add colorful additions to your room decor. Silk bedding invites you to spend a restful and comfy night.
One type of silk, chiffon is used in making curtains and ruffles for pillow comforters.
Silk is perceived to possess an anti-bacterial property, that’s why it is now used in the manufacture of prosthetic arteries.
It is also used for covering wounds and burns.
Silk is often blended with other fabrics. Synthetics give silk more stability, as well as sun and water spotting resistance. For sports attire, adding cotton to silk fiber gives strength, stain resistance and body to the fabric.
Draperies and upholstery are also more durable and easy to take care of with synthetic fibers mixed with the silk fibers.
Woven silk fibers blend with other materials and are used for the construction of parachutes and bicycle tires.