Wednesday, 27 June 2012

SILK... the ageless fabric!

We wear it! We flaunt it! We love it! 
Don't you wonder whats so great about Silk that we can't seem to have enough of it?
Most of us have used this fabric in one or many forms. Be it clothes, upholstery or to beautify our living space.

I think it is the remarkable process that plays a big role in turning merely nothing into a beautiful precious fabric. I learnt a lot about the process, literally stage by stage during my recent visit to China and I think that's one of the best take aways from the trip :)

I'll take you through the process with the help of these pictures that I took at the Silk Museum in Shanghai.
We all have studied the lifecycle of a silk worm in school so I'll not get into details but this was very interesting and as they say 'practical is always better than theory' ....I agree completely :)


Stage 1 to 4 : The female moth lays tiny EGGS, the CATERPILLAR hatches out of the egg. It feeds on Mulberry leaves and grows bigger into a LARVA and starts spinning a cocoon of silk threads around itself. Inside the cocoon the caterpillar changes into a PUPA.

Stage 5 : The Pupa changes into a moth and comes out of the cocoon. 
They mate again and the cycle goes on...

What they leave behind is the silk cocoon!
People unwind the silk thread from the cocoon to weave silk cloth.

They keep the cocoons submerged in cold water for hours. That loosens out the silk and makes it easier to remove off the shell. Once the silk is soft and loose, the thread gets attached to the winding machine and starts spinning on the winding tube.

Once it is spun, it is put to dry on an inverted U shaped pipe. (see the picture below) 
The dry weave is further processed to make usable fabric.

Now this is amazing and fun!! The weave that you saw in the above picture is stretched manually from all sides to cover the length of a king size blanket!! YUP! All from that small swirl of thread. Its a single thread that goes round and round to give one entire layer for the blanket! Many such threads are spread layer on layer to make it thick n fluffy.

That was the amazing part... and the fun part was when they let US do it! :) The blanket is unbelievably soft and is all weather! I got myself two :) 
Well, Im lucky to get a chance to visit a place where I can see the trasformation from eggs to blanket but we dont get such a chance every time we are buying silk right? So I thought I'll also share tips that will help you distinguish between pure and fake silk. 

How to differentiate between pure Silk and Look alikes?

A lot of times its confusing when the seller poses a particular fabric as pure silk. Of Course, the need to differentiate between real silk and look alike is the basic reason of cost. Silk costs a lot more than the “fake silk”.

Polyester and Nylon are the most common fabrics that are passed of, or can be used to look like silk. It is
relatively easy for all of us to differentiate between cotton and synthetic fibres. But the properties of
Polyester and Nylon make it possible for them to be passed off as Silk. 

So this is how you can differentiate the real Silk :-
Cut a small piece of fabric about 1 to 2 cms, or if your situation does not permit, take some threads from any one of the corners (Even 2 threads of 1 inch length is sufficient). With a matchstick or a lighter make a flame and slowly bring the threads in contact with the flame.(Be careful not the burn your fingers). Do not burn the entire threads, just a little on the edges. Observe the thread as it burns.

If the sample is pure Silk the threads will burn and turn to black ash. It will stop burning as soon as the threads are taken away from the flame.
If instead, the threads burn, and when the thread is taken away from the flame it continues to burn a little. Just observe the ends of the thread remaining after the burning. If there is a formation of small glass like(plastic like) beads at the ends of the threads, the said sample is not Silk but Polyester or Nylon. 

I hope you enjoyed reading the post and from now on you need not worry about getting duped in the name of Pure silk!

Please share your feedback, comments and any additional information you think will be useful to our friends :)


  1. Thanks for sharing the knowledge

  2. This is a great article..

  3. thank you for giving it a read...its encouraging :)


Always happy to get a feedback :)

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