Welcome to the wonderful world of types of silk. It is a fabric that has history, mystery and a huge variety of fabric variations. Silk is the strongest natural fabric in the world. Nothing can beat silk when it comes to strength and variety. Historically silk has been around for centuries. It was silk that opened up the trade routes to the East. Mystery surrounded how it was made for a long time too as the Chinese were not willing to part with their secret and the huge variety available today is testimony to this wonderful fabric production.
Types of Silk
Silk starts out in a natural environment with silkworms producing the raw materials. The most common type of silkworm is the mulberry worm.
It is the Bombyx Mori silkworm that lives and feeds on the mulberry leaves. The silk is harvested from the cocoons spun by the silkworms when they are ready to pupate. The cocoons are boiled and the silk threads used to make the cocoon are unwound and used to make the silk as we knot it.
Natural Types of Silk
These are natural silks, and they vary according to the leaves the worms eat.
- Mulberry silk is the most common silk and dominates 80% of the world silks.
- Eri silk comes from the species of silkworm feeding on castor oil plants. This silk is known as ‘Peace silk’ because it is not boiled to remove the worms. The fabric is coarser and heavier. It is also known as Tusser silk.
- Muga Silk is found in the Assam state of India. It is bright golden yellow.
Pure silk has no additives and is in its raw natural state. Raw silk is the fiber collected directly from the silkworm’s cocoon.
Silk from Other Animals
There are silks that do not come from the various silkworms but these silks are rare and not used for everyday fabrics.
- Spider silk is very stretchy and used for bulletproof vests and industrial items.
- Sea silk comes from the filaments secreted by the mussels.
Common Types of Silks
There is a multitude of other types of silks and silk blends to choose from in silk fabrics. The following 34 names are just some of the more well-known silks.
Charmeuse is soft, medium-weight silk with a satin luster on the front. It is also known as silk satin. A beautiful variation of silk, charmeuse drapes well and makes beautiful gowns, blouses and scarves. It is a favorite fabric for wedding gowns. There are variations of Charmeuse including stretch Charmeuse and sand washed Charmeuse as well as suede Charmeuse. It is not an easy fabric to sew because it is very slippery. Lots of hand basting is recommended to hold seams in place before machine sewing.
Crepe is a light to medium weight silk fabric. This silk is slippery and very soft. It is difficult to sew as it is hard to keep together while sewing. Combat this by using silk pins or hand basting.
Gauze is a very light, soft silk fabric with a beautiful sheen. This silk is also used as interfacing and linings for other silk creations.
Embossed, Embroidered and Beaded Silks
Silk lends itself to being beaded, embroidered and embossed. These embellished silks are very popular for wedding dresses.
Dupioni is a medium weight reversible silk. It has a crisp texture and does not crease easily. Dupioni is easier to sew than Charmeuse or chiffon. The shimmer and light lustre of this fabric make it a very attractive fabric to use for extra special gowns. It needs to be pre-washed and handled with care to avoid snagging.
Fuji is a medium-weight and one of the inexpensive types of silk. It drapes very well and is used very successfully for the lining of clothing such as jackets.
This silk is heavier and stiffer than silk gauze. It is sheer and makes up beautifully for veils. Silk organza is the base fabric used for embroidery and embellishments.
Shantung is a medium to heavyweight silk. In India, it is known as Tussah silk. The silk is collected from silkworms feeding on oak leaves. It is strong and crisp and does not crease too much.
Noil is one of the types of silk with a matt finish. It is made from the short fibers left over after the silk has been combed and carded. It looks like cotton but has a silken feel to the fabric.
Broadcloth is suitable for shirts and tailored clothes. Silk broadcloth feels like cotton and holds creases well. Sewing with this fabric is a much easier experience than many others.
Crepe de Chine
This fabric is smooth and has great luster. Crepe de chine drapes well and is a comfortable fabric to wear.
Georgette is a strong silk fabric but it is difficult to sew because it snags easily. It has a grainy texture and is good for dressmaking.
Crepe is a light-weight textured silk with a pleasant sheen.
This silk is heavier than crepe de chine. It comes from Canton in China and is greenish in color. It has a soft crinkly surface.
Four Ply Silk
Four strands of yarn are twisted together to make this silk yarn. It is a medium to heavyweight fabric and heavier than silk crepe. Four ply silk is sought after for dressmaking.
Silk Metal Tissue
These types of silk have an open weave and luster created by the metalized threads incorporated into the fabric. It is stiff and has an unusual shine, but is difficult to care for. It can not be dry cleaned or washed and shrinks when washed.
Gaberdine is a form of silk with a twill weave. This creates a distinct diagonal line on the fabric. It is a durable crisp fabric and ideal for making skirts and suits.
Taffeta has a distinct texture and makes a rustling sound when it is moved. It is a reversible fabric and may be soft or stiff depending on the make of taffeta.
Peau de Soie
This silk satin has two different names. It is also known as duchess satin or bridal satin. It looks like silk charmeuse with a moderately stiff draped effect. It is easy to sew.
Habutai silk is a lightweight fabric. It drapes beautifully and does not crease easily. Habutai is also known as parachute fabric. It is used for lining and for light dresses and skirts.
China silk is a very thin form of silk fabric. It looks similar to Habotai silk and is best suited to a soft lining.
Pongee is a form of raw types of silk that drapes softly. It is lighter than silk habotai and inexpensive to buy.
Silk velvet is a very beautiful form of silk with a pile. It makes great drapes and beautiful gowns.
Spun silk is another form of silk made with short fibers. The surface of this silk feels rough and more like cotton.
Damask is a woven silk with jacquard patterns woven into the fabric.
Watered silk is interesting in that a watermark type of design is incorporated into the fabric.
Different colors of thread are used in the warp and weft of shot silk fabric. This creates an iridescent appearance.
Types of Silk - By Country of Origin
Similar to shantung silk, Thai silk comes from Thailand. It is a tightly woven good quality silk.
Chirimen silk, Tsumugi silk, Chichibu-meisen and Kinsha silk are all beautiful silks originating for Japan. They are light weight and soft and made with beautiful patterns.
India is well known for its silk fabrics. The Indian women wear saris of silk and have many types of silk to choose from. Surah, Garad and Kashemere silk are just a few of the renowned silks from India.
Types of Silk - by Composition
Silk can be classified by its fiber composition:
Silk blends well with other fibres and cotton silk is a blend of cotton and silk. It is a heavier fabric but less expensive than silk.
Wool silk is another blended fabric of wool and silk. This fabric brings out all the good qualities of both wool and silk. Wool for warmth and silk for a light weight fabric. Wool silk drapes well and does not wrinkle.
Art silk is artificial silk made of rayon fibers. Art silk is an inexpensive substitute for real silk. It appears to be like silk but is not durable and has less drape.
Types of Silk In Conclusion
Now you know all about the types of silk it is time to start sewing this beautiful fabric. Silk is one of the most versatile and wonderful natural fabrics.
EARN HOW TO SEW WITH MORE FABRICS
Now you know all about sewing denim, check out these other fabrics listed alphabetically.
- CHIFFON – Sewing Chiffon
- BATIK – What is Batik
- CANVAS – Sewing Canvas
- COTTON – Sewing Cotton
- DENIM – Sewing Denim
- FELT – Sewing Felt
- FUR – Sewing Fur
- KNITS – How to Sew Stretch Fabric
- INTERFACING – Types of Interfacing
- LACE – How to Sew Lace
- LEATHER – Sewing Leather and Types of Leather
- RAYON – Sewing Rayon
- SHEER – Sewing Sheer Fabrics
- SILK – How to Sew Silk
- THICK – Sewing Thick Fabrics
- VELVET Sewing Velvet and Types of Velvet
- WOOL – Sewing Wool and Types of Wool