Silk - A Luxurious Fiber.

Silk is one of the most beautiful natural fibers know to man. It is unwound in a single continuous strand from the cocoon of a caterpillar. Who would think that such a beautiful fiber could be produced by a moth larvae?

The female moth lays her eggs, which then hatch into caterpillars (silkworms). These caterpillars spin a cocoon for protection. The cocoons are heated and cooled to allow the fiber to soften and then be unwound into skeins.

These skeins are washed and then several are spun together into thread or yarns. This is known as 'thrown silk.'

'Spun silk' is made from the shorter fiber lengths not used in previous production. This thread or yarn can also be labelled 'waste' or 'noil.' 'Tussah' or 'wild' silk is made from lower quality cocoons.

This is one of the strongest natural fibers. It is elastic and stretches but does not tend to lose its shape or sag. It doesn't wrinkle much and will drape well. Like wool, it is a protein fiber.

It will absorb water and does not attract dirt. You should be careful when washing though, as it does lose strength a little when wet. Do not wring or scrub and always use a mild detergent! Some silk will have been treated during finishing and so will need to be dry cleaned only.

It burns slowly and smells like burning hair. Its ashes are like crispy black beads which are crushable.

Unfortunately it is susceptible to the same moths as wool, so check out these moth-proofing tips. You should always wash a silk garment after wearing, as perspiration can really do some damage.

Silk dyes easily and is often blended with other fibers especially in yarns. The 'spun' version is used for yarns as all the fibers are in shorter lengths, which makes carding, combing, blending and spinning easy.

The price of the pure yarns is higher because of the way they are produced. When you think of the size of a cocoon - only a couple of inches long, can you imagine how many unwound cocoons it would take to make even a tank top?

Blended yarns are much more reasonable in price depending on the total silk content. I would only use the 100% pure yarn for a very special project or heirloom. I need to experiment with some wool blends I have. I'll let you know how I get on.

Find out more about Cotton too.
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