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
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
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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