What is Silk?

Posted: May 15 2016

Silk can be seen in a variety of fabrics these days, from process silk, broken silk to even raw silk and silk blends. But what is it actually and how can one tool make so many different fabrics? 

The Story

Silk has a lovely story that stems from thousands of years ago. We won't go into full depth as the silk trade route is a very long history lesson but you can find lots of fiction books that tell it wonderfully (such as Silk by Ann Goldstein). The year is 27 BCE and a lovely 14 year old empress is sitting under a tree having a cup of tea. Something falls from above and lands in her hot drink and as she goes to fish it out, it begins to unravel in a single thread spool. She notices that this is something soft and beautiful so she rushes back to tell everyone what she has found and that is the quick story of how silk was founded. It may be true of just a story but it's always fun to have some history behind anything. 

Is It Vegan?

Short answer...nope. What fell into the tea was a cocoon from the Bombyx Mori Moth. In order to get the silk to come off the cocoon it has to be boiled which means that the worm inside will die which, therefore makes it non vegan. There are even silk farms these days where people raise moths and feed them Mulberry leaves (the best silk comes from moths who eat Mulberry Leaves) and in turn they produce more worms which will also eat the leaves and when it is time to turn into a cocoon they will be placed in a large vat of hot water to release the thread. 

What Types Are There?

So many! The main types are treated, raw, broken and blended. Treated is the most common that you will see. It usually has a dye to it and is very soft to touch. This can include the process from how it is dyed to how it is woven. Making sure that everything being used in this process is handled with care and disposed of properly is very important as you don't want to ruin either the environment or the people who are handling these fabrics. Our Carrie Parry Boyfriend Blouse is a perfect example of this as it is one of the softest fabrics you will ever touch and had been very carefully monitored to make sure it is not harming or hurting anyone in the process. The next silk is raw silk which has no had any treatment or dye done to it at all. It tends to be a bit heavier and rougher in texture and the colour is more of a natural/cream colour to it. this is silk that has come right from the vat and into the weaving process. Our Atelier Delphine Garden Dress is a wonderfully sewn raw silk dress. Broken silk may be considered vegan, depending your stance on things. The process is the same however they wait for the worm to hatch and break the cocoon so they do not die. This is seen as a lower quality as the silk fibres are much shorter and usually the fabric ends up being more course to touch. We say may be vegan because the moths and worms are still farmed, just not boiled. Silk blends are just what they sound like, silk blended with another fabric such as cotton. This is used to get the soft and sheen benefits of silk but can also lower the cost of it as well. 

Why Silk?

Many people like silk for many reasons. The texture is very soft and smooth against your skin, it is a very professional fabric which is why it is most common in mens ties and women's blouses. It does not take as much chemical and waste as synthetic fabrics to be engineered which is always great and because it is natural is will biodegrade (over a long period of time) which many like as imitation fabrics will sit in landfills for thousands of years.