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 fabric when it comes to strength and variety. This tutorial will discuss the different silk types according to their fibers, production processes, and country of origin.
Types of Silk Tutorial
What is Silk?
Silk is a natural fiber produced by certain insect larvae that form cocoons. The best-known silk is obtained from the cocoons of the mulberry silkworm Bombyx mori, cultivated for the fabric.
Known for its luster, softness, and strength, silk is a highly prized textile with origins in ancient China. Historically silk has been around for centuries. It was silk that opened up the trade routes to the East. The huge variety of silk available today is testimony to this wonderful fabric production.
How is Silk Made?
The process of cultivating silkworms involves nurturing worms on mulberry leaves, then boiling cocoons to extract long fibers, which are spun into thread.
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.
What is Silk Used For?
Beyond textiles, silk finds applications in medical sutures and parachutes. Luxurious and elegant, silk's unique properties make it a favored material in fashion and decor.
Types of Silk Fabric by Animal
Silk can be made from different types of silkworms as well as spiders and mussels!
1. Mulberry Silk
- What is mulberry silk? Mulberry silk is the most common silk and dominates 80% of the world's silks. This type of silk is primarily obtained from the cocoons of the mulberry silkworm, Bombyx Mori. Cultivated extensively in China and India, these silkworms feed solely on mulberry leaves. The consistent diet and meticulous care result in smooth, lustrous, and fine fibers. The long fiber length makes mulberry silk exceptionally durable and more refined than other types.
- What is mulberry silk used for? Known for its softness, sheen, and natural temperature-regulating properties, mulberry silk is often favored for high-quality garments, bedding, and other textiles, offering unparalleled comfort and elegance.
2. Eri Silk
- What is eri silk? 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. Produced mainly in India, the silk is spun from the cocoon of the Eri silkworm, which feeds on castor leaves. Unlike other silk types, the Eri cocoon is open-ended, allowing the moth to emerge and live its full life cycle. The fabric of eri silk is coarser and heavier with a creamy white color. It is also known as Tusser silk.
- What is eri silk used for? Eri silk is especially valued in the textile industry for its ethical production, durability, and distinctive charm.3. Muga Silk
3. Muga Silk
- What is muga silk? Muga Silk is found in the Assam state of India and is a rare and exclusive type of silk. It is produced by the semi-domesticated "muga silkworm," scientifically known as Antheraea Assamensis. This silk is particularly special because of its natural shimmering golden-yellow hue, which becomes even more lustrous with each wash. Muga silk is renowned for its longevity, and traditionally woven fabrics made from it can last several centuries. Due to its exclusivity, rich color, and inherent shine, Muga silk is considered a symbol of luxury and status in India and beyond.
- What is muga silk used for? Muga silk is used for traditional garments, saris, scarves, and shawls.
4. 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. It is not viable to be commercially made into fabrics for home use.
- Sea silk comes from the filaments secreted by the mussels. This kind of silk has been harvested and woven in the Mediterranean region for centuries, though it's now nearly lost as an art.
Common Types of Silk Fabrics
There is a multitude of other types of silks and silk blends to choose from in silk fabrics. The following silk names are just some of the more well-known silks.
5. Silk Charmeuse
- What is silk charmeuse? 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. There are variations of Charmeuse, including stretch Charmeuse and sand-washed Charmeuse, as well as suede Charmeuse.
- What is charmeuse used for? Most silk charmeuse types are not easy fabrics to sew because they are very slippery. Lots of hand basting is recommended to hold seams in place before machine sewing.
6. Chiffon Crepe
- What is chiffon crepe fabric? Crepe is a light to medium-weight silk fabric that combines the properties of chiffon and crepe. Chiffon is a lightweight, sheer fabric with a soft drape, while crepe is recognized for its crinkled or pebbled texture. When combined, silk chiffon crepe offers the lightness and delicate drape of chiffon along with the textured surface of the crepe. 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.
- What is chiffon crepe used for? Due to its lovely drape, chiffon crepe is often used for evening wear, lingerie, wedding dresses and light scarves.
7. Silk Gauze
- What is gauze silk? Gauze is a very light, soft silk fabric with a beautiful sheen. Characterized by its open weave, it has a delicate and soft texture, allowing for transparency and breathability. Despite its fragile appearance, silk gauze is surprisingly strong due to the inherent qualities of silk fibers.
- What is silk gauze used for? The fine, open weave allows for a gentle drape, making it ideal for layering in fashion. This silk is also used as interfacing and linings for other silk creations.
8. Embossed, Embroidered and Beaded Silks
Silk lends itself to being beaded, embroidered, and embossed. These embellished silks are very popular for wedding dresses.
9. Silk Dupioni
- What is dupioni? Dupioni is a medium-weight reversible silk with a crisp texture that does not crease easily. Dupioni is easier to sew than Charmeuse or chiffon. It needs to be pre-washed and handled with care to avoid snagging.
- What is dupioni used for? The shimmer and light luster of this fabric makes it a very attractive fabric to use for extra special gowns.
10. Fuji Silk
- What is Fuji silk? Fuji is a medium-weight and one of the inexpensive types of silk. It is less sheer than many silk types, offering more coverage while retaining the breathable and comfortable qualities inherent to silk. The surface is somewhat similar to silk crepe, but with a smoother feel.
- What is Fuji silk used for? Fuji silk drapes very well and is used very successfully for the lining of clothing, such as jackets.
11. Silk Organza
- What is silk organza? Silk organza is a lightweight, sheer fabric made from pure silk. It stands out because of its stiff texture and subtle sheen, creating a unique combination of translucency with structure. This silk is heavier and stiffer than silk gauze. Silk organza is the base fabric used for embroidery and embellishments.
- What is silk organza used for? Unlike some other silks, organza holds its shape, making it ideal for garments that require volume, like bridal gowns, evening dresses, and skirts. Its stiff drape also makes it perfect for underlayers or petticoats, giving structure to outer garments. Additionally, silk organza is often used in millinery and as an overlay in fashion designs.
12. Silk Shantung
- What is shantung silk? 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. This type of silk has bumps on the surface from the silk fibers called slubs. Shantung silk types are strong and crisp and do not crease too much.
- What is silk shantung used for? Shantung is often used to make fancy dresses or decorations because it looks rich and elegant.
13. Silk Noil (Raw Silk)
- What is noil silk fabric? 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. Noil silk types look like cotton but have a silken feel to the fabric.
- What is noil used for? Since it has a nubby texture and is matt, it is often used for lining, home decor, and crafts.
14. Silk Broadcloth
- What is silk broadcloth? Broadcloth has a smooth surface. Silk broadcloth feels like cotton and holds creases well due to its dense weave. Sewing with this fabric is a much easier experience than many other types of silk. Unlike silk noil or dupioni, silk broadcloth doesn’t have slubs or irregularities.
- What is broadcloth silk used for? Due to its smooth and lustrous finish, it is suitable for shirts and tailored clothes. It makes beautiful high-end apparel, ties, and linings.
15. Crepe de Chine
- What is crepe de chine (CDC)? This fabric is generally lightweight and has great luster. Crepe de Chine has a slightly crinkled or pebbled texture, which comes from the crepe-twist filling yarns used in weaving. Crepe de chine drapes well and is a comfortable fabric to wear.
- What is crepe de chine used for? Due to its combination of softness, drape, and durability, it is used in clothing production, including blouses, dresses, skirts, and lingerie. It can be used for both casual and formal wear.
16. Silk Georgette
- What is georgette silk fabric? Georgette is a strong silk fabric, but it is difficult to sew because it snags easily. It has a grainy, crinkled texture and is usually sheer. This silk type of fabric drapes beautifully, making it suitable for flowing garments. While lightweight, it's slightly heavier and less lustrous than silk chiffon but shares a similar airy quality.
- What is georgette used for? Silk georgette is frequently used in women's fashion for creating blouses, dresses, skirts, and evening gowns. Given its sheer quality, it's often used as an overlay or in layered designs. The lightweight and elegant drape make it a popular choice for scarves and wraps.
17. Silk Crepe
- What is silk crepe? Crepe is a light-weight textured silk with a pleasant sheen. The fabric has a fine, crinkled surface due to the twisted yarns used in its weaving. Depending on the specific type, silk crepe can range from lightweight (like crepe de chine) to medium weight. It's known for its excellent drape, making it a favorite for garments that need to flow gracefully.
- What is silk crepe used for? Silk crepe is extensively used in clothing, particularly for dresses, skirts, blouses, lingerie, and pants. Its graceful drape makes it especially suited for evening wear and other formal attire.
18. Canton Silk
- What is Canton silk? This silk is heavier than crepe de chine. It comes from Canton in China and is greenish in color. The soft crinkly surface is its most distinctive feature. This type of silk is generally soft and medium in weight but can also be found in heavier weights. The fabric has a good drape, making it suitable for various clothing items.
- What are Canton silk's care instructions? Like other silk fabrics, Canton silk requires gentle care, such as hand washing or dry cleaning, to maintain its texture and sheen. Over time, the fabric can lose its crinkled texture if not treated with care.
- What is Canton silk used for? With its smooth texture and luxurious feel, Canton silk has traditionally been used for making dresses, blouses, and evening wear. It's especially favored for vintage-style garments.
19. Four Ply Silk
- What is four ply silk? Four strands of yarn are twisted together to make this silk type of yarn. It is a medium to heavyweight fabric and heavier than silk crepe. Four ply silk is sought after for dressmaking.
- What is four ply silk used for? Given its substantial weight and lovely drape, four-ply silk is often chosen for upmarket clothing items such as evening dresses, skirts, blazers, and blouses. This silk is best for creating a garment with structure while still maintaining the elegance and luxury associated with silk.
20. Silk Metal
- What is silk metal fabric? These types of silk have an open weave and luster created by the metallic threads woven into the fabric. The metal threads may cause some slight texture depending on how they are woven in. It is stiff and has an unusual shine but is difficult to care for. Generally, silk metal is lightweight, especially when the metal used is a thin foil or filament. This silk can not be dry cleaned or washed as it shrinks.
- What is silk metal used for? Some silk metal fabrics are used in acoustic panels because they can help in sound absorption. Due to its eye-catching appearance, silk metal tissue fabric is often used for evening wear, costumes, and other high-fashion garments where a dramatic effect is desired.
21. Silk Gaberdine
- What is silk gaberdine? Gaberdine is a form of silk with a woven twill weave. This creates a distinct diagonal line on the fabric. Like most silk types, it drapes well. The tight weave ensures it has high durability.
- What is silk gaberdine used for? As is a durable crisp fabric and ideal for making skirts and suits, and other elegant clothing. Silk gabardine, while not as resilient as wool or cotton versions, can still be found in jackets.
22. Silk Taffeta
- What is silk taffeta? 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 the taffeta. Silk taffeta is a plain-woven fabric, meaning the warp and weft threads cross over and under each other in an alternating pattern.
- What is silk taffeta used for? Silk taffeta is a popular choice for evening gowns, cocktail dresses, and other special occasion outfits. The fabric's body and volume make it ideal for designs that require a fuller silhouette, like ball gowns.
23. Peau de Soie
- What is Peau de Soie? This is a French term that means skin or silk. Peau de Soie silk satin is also known as duchess satin or bridal satin. It looks like silk charmeuse with a moderately stiff draped effect. Unlike some other types of satin, it has a softer luster instead of high gloss. Dry cleaning is usually recommended for this silk.
- What is Peau de Soie used for? Peau de soie is a popular choice for wedding dresses, bridesmaid gowns, and evening dresses. Its weight and drape are ideal for creating structured silhouettes, which is why it's favored for many classic bridal gown styles. In addition to clothing, this silk type is used for accessories such as shoes and clutches.
24. Habutai/Habotai Silk
- What is Habutai silk? Habutai silk is a lightweight fabric with a smooth and soft texture. Since it is so light, it drapes beautifully. Compared to many other silks, it's also a preferred fabric for summer clothing due to its breathable nature.
- What is Habutai silk used for? Habutai is also known as parachute fabric. It is used for lining and for light dresses and skirts. Due to its relatively lower cost, habotai silk is often chosen for silk painting and dyeing projects. The fabric takes dyes well and is commonly used for hand-painted scarves and other silk art.
25. China Silk
- What is China silk fabric? China silk is a very thin form of silk fabric. It looks similar to Habotai silk and is best suited to a soft lining. The name "China silk" doesn't necessarily refer to a specific weave or quality but rather its origin. Over time, however, it has often been used interchangeably with Habotai.
- What is China silk used for? China silk is often used for lightweight blouses, dresses, lingerie, lining, and summer garments. Its breathability and soft texture make it comfortable to wear. This silk type is popular for various craft projects, particularly those involving hand-dyeing and painting.
26. Silk Pongee
- What is silk pongee? Pongee (pronounced "pon-jee") is a form of raw type of silk that drapes softly. It is lighter than silk habotai and inexpensive to buy. It has a slightly slubbed texture, which gives it a more natural, raw appearance. This texture is due to the use of raw silk threads, which have irregularities.
- What is silk pongee used for? Pongee silk is used for making dresses, blouses, and lightweight jackets. Its natural, slightly rustic appearance makes it suitable for both casual and formal wear. Historically, pongee silk was used for high-quality umbrellas due to its tight weave and water-resistant nature.
27. Velvet Types of Silk
- What is silk velvet? Silk velvet is a very beautiful form of silk with a pile. Traditionally, velvet was made entirely from silk, but nowadays, you'll find velvets made from various fibers, including cotton, rayon, and synthetics. However, silk velvet retains its position as one of the most luxurious types of velvet, known for its unique luster, softness, and drape.
- What is silk velvet used for? Velvet silk makes great curtains and beautiful gowns. In addition, it can be used for handbags, scarves, and shawls. Silk velvet is a favorite for theatre costumes.
28. Spun Silk Types
- What is spun silk? Spun silk is a different type of silk made with short fibers. These are the remnants or broken pieces from the longer continuous filament fibers. The surface of this silk feels rough and more like cotton, and it has a more matt appearance. While still strong, spun silk is generally not as strong as filament silk due to the shorter fiber lengths.
- What is spun silk used for? Spun silk is often used in garments where a more matte finish is desired, such as casual wear, shirts, T-shirts, and knitwear. It offers the comfort of silk but with a less formal look.
29. Damask Silk
- What are damask types of silk? Damask is a woven type of silk with jacquard patterns woven into the fabric. The pattern is slightly raised and reversible and can be seen on both sides of the fabric, but the colors are inverted. Damask is distinguished by its intricate, often floral or geometric patterns and can be medium to heavy weight.
- What is damask silk used for? Damask silk is widely used in interior design for items like curtains, chair upholstery, and tablecloths. Its intricate patterns and sheen add a touch of luxury to home interiors as well as accessories such as handbags, scarves, and ties.
30. Watered Silk
- What is watered silk? Watered silk is interesting in that a watermark type of design that looks like water ripples is incorporated into the fabric. It is also known as moire (pronounced "mwar"). The surface is generally smooth, but the pattern can sometimes be slightly raised or embossed, depending on the production method.
- What is watered silk used for? Watered silk has been used historically for high-end and ceremonial clothing. It's been a fabric of choice for royal and aristocratic garments, including gowns, jackets, and vests. The fabric's distinctive pattern makes it popular for accessories like handbags, purses, ties, and scarves. Moire was once used in bookbinding as cover material or as endpapers for luxury book editions.
31. Shot Silk
- What is shot silk? Different colors of thread are used in the warp and weft of shot silk fabric to create an iridescent appearance. The term "shot" refers to the appearance of the fabric as though it's been shot through with threads of a different color. When viewed at different angles, shot types of silk look as though they have changed color due to the way it reflects light.
- What is shot silk used for? The shimmering appearance of shot silk makes it an attractive choice for fashion items as well as those for the home, like cushions, curtains, and upholstery.
Types of Silk By Country of Origin
32. Thai Silk
- What is Thai silk? Similar to shantung silk, Thai silk comes from Thailand. It is a tightly woven, good-quality silk known for its distinct texture and vibrant colors. Thai silk is made with traditional hand-woven production methods and comes from threads produced by Thai silkworms. This means each piece of fabric has its unique character. The irregularities in the weave give the fabric a natural texture, distinguishing it from machine-made fabrics.
- What is Thai silk used for? Thai silk is commonly used to produce garments such as traditional Thai dresses, shirts, blouses, neckties, and scarves.
33. Japanese Silks
- What is Japanese silk: Chirimen silk, Tsumugi silk, Chichibu-meisen and Kinsha silk are all beautiful silks originating from Japan. They are lightweight and soft and made with beautiful patterns. Japanese silk is renowned for its high quality. It is generally smooth, lustrous, and strong. Traditional Japanese silk often showcases intricate patterns and designs, some of which are created using tie-dyeing techniques (like shibori) or intricate embroidery.
- What is Japanese silk used for? One of the most iconic uses of Japanese silk is the kimono, a traditional Japanese garment. Apart from kimonos, Japanese silk is used for blouses, dresses, ties, and other clothing items. Traditional garments like yukatas, haoris, and obis (the belt for kimonos) are also often made from this type of silk.
34. Indian Silks
- What is Indian silk? India is well known for its types of 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.
- What is Indian silk used for? The saree, a traditional Indian garment, is perhaps the most well-known use of Indian silk. Many Indian handicraft items, including bags, wall hangings, and decorative items, are crafted using silk.
Types of Silk Fabric by Composition
Silk can be classified by its fiber composition. It blends well with other fibers such as cotton, wool, and synthetics. These fiber additions can reduce the cost and introduce new characteristics.
35. Cotton Silk
- What is cotton silk? Cotton silk is a blend of cotton and silk and can be known as sico. It is a heavier fabric but less expensive than silk. The blend of cotton and silk creates a fabric with a lustrous sheen and the durability of cotton. Cotton, being a breathable fiber, lends this quality to the blend, making cotton silk garments comfortable to wear, even in warmer climates.
- What is cotton silk used for? Cotton silk is widely used in the fashion industry for making garments like dresses, blouses, shirts, sarees, and scarves. It offers a luxurious appearance without compromising on comfort.
36. Wool Silk
- What is wool 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 lightweight fabric with luster. Wool silk drapes well and does not wrinkle.
- What is wool silk used for? Wool silk can be used for warmer but luxurious suits, jackets, dresses, and outerwear.
37. Art Silk (Synthetic Silk)
- What is art silk? Art silk is artificial silk made of rayon and viscose fibers and is an inexpensive substitute for real silk. It appears to be like silk but is not durable and has less drape. While it's designed to mimic the softness of silk, art silk can sometimes feel slightly coarser or more synthetic to the touch. Art silk can be more durable than natural silk. However, its quality can vary based on the manufacturing process and materials used.
- What is art silk used for? Art silk sarees are quite popular as they offer the elegance of silk sarees without the associated cost. Given its durability and cost-effectiveness, art types of silk is used in items such as curtains, cushions, and upholstery as well as bags, scarves and ties.
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.
Now you know all about the types of silk, 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