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Silk Fabric


Fabrics made from the natural filament produced by the silkworm.

It's been called "The Queen of Fabrics" for its elegance and luxury. Its strength, luster, and drape make silk the choice of dressmakers and tailors who value these qualities for women's dresses, and for men's shirts, suits, and ties.

Most of the silk produced for today's apparel market comes from the long filament produced by the larvae of the cultivated bombyx mori moth. However, silk filaments are also produced by various wild moths, giving us tussah silk, among others.

Unprocessed filaments, extracted from the cocoons of the larvae, are called raw silk. These filaments are coated with sericin, a natural gum, which is generally, but not always, removed during the processing of the silk. Gummed filaments do not take dye as easily as those that have been degummed. Some raw silk fibers are used without processing to make fabrics; or, they may be combined with processed filaments to create yarns that are thicker and more textured.

The waste left from processing the cocoons consists of short bits of filament. These are not thrown away; they are spun into yarns and woven into fabrics such as silk noil.

Silk fabrics are made in many different weaves. Hand, drape, and texture range from soft and fluid to crisp. Weights range from gossamer sheers to suitings and bottom weights.

Silks popular for apparel include:

Silk jersey is a very luxurious knit fabric for wrap dresses, tops, and skirts. Silk jersey became popular when Diane von Furstenburg used it for her wrap dresses in the 1970s.

The major producers of silk today include China, India, Thailand, and Vietnam. The U. S. is the largest importer of silk.

Tips & Tricks

Pretreat silk by washing or dry-cleaning before cutting out your garment.

Test fabric for colorfastness.

Use all-purpose polyester or cotton thread in your machine.

Choose a microtex or universal needle in the type and weight appropriate for your fabric. For silk jersey, use a jersey needle.

For very fine silk fabrics such as chiffon or georgette, use a straight stitch presser foot and needle plate on your machine.

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