- Silk Information & Dictionary
Silk Information & Dictionary
Silk is a luxury fabric with an enchanting history (The production of silk originates in China in the Neolithic ( 4th millennium BCE)). Despite its popularity and utility, many users of silk do not possess much information about silk.
We have created this All About Silk section to make our customers aware of some background facts and information about silk. Whatever information you want to find out about silk.
A satin weave silk with a crepe back (also called crepe backed satin). Fabric is woven with a satin weave, where the warp threads cross over three or more of the backing threads. The front side of the fabric has a satin finish, lustrous and reflective, and the back has a dull finish.
Loved for its lustrous shine, beautiful drape, and sumptuous feel, silk charmeuse is the most widely recognized of the silk fabrics. Wonderfully versatile, this elegant fabric has medium weight and some natural elasticity, making it perfect for skirts, dresses, eveningwear, nightgowns, lingerie, and gently shaped tops. Charmeuse sews well, but is subject to snags and requires extra attention since it is a bit slippery.
Chiffon literally means “rag” in French. This elegant, sheer fabric is quite limp, with a beautiful drape. It has a soft, supple, thin hand and a flat, crepe-like texture.
A very light, diaphanous fabric, Chiffon is made with a loose, plain weave and tightly twisted single crêpe yarns in both warp and weft. Unlike in crêpe de Chine, the weft yarn is either S or Z twist. The characteristic wrinkles in the finished fabric are created by the weft yarns being pulled in one direction.
Chiffon is elegant and sheer, with a slightly rough feel to it. Sometimes called Crepe Chiffon, this fabric is highly suited for special occasion dresses, Scarves, nightgowns, and linings. Chiffon is softer and thinner than Georgette. [Georgette is made like chiffon, but with a two or three ply yarn.] Because of its slippery quality, chiffon is difficult to cut and sew.
Please see Habutai.
Another term for Pupa. Please see Pupa.
The oval casing of filament silk, or brin, spun by the silkmoth larvae or caterpillar, the silkworm, to protect itself when it changes into a chrysalis. The silkworm extrudes through the silk glands in its head a viscose fluid building up round itself layer upon layer crossing the filaments in a figure of eight.
Color of cocoons ranges from white to yellow, golden yellow and brown. The color is contained in the sericin, and is removed during the degumming process.
The cocoon grading system in France has become the standard for Europe and India. They are sorted into nine different grades
- Good Cocoons: Perfect for mechanical reeling
- Pointed Cocoons: No good for mechanical reeling
- Cocalons: Larger than normal
- Duppions: Double cocoons
- Soufflon: Loose or transparent
- Perforated: Pierced or broken
- Good Choquettes: Containing dead chrysalis
- Bad Choquettes: Rotten cocoons
- Calcinated: Containing petrified chrysalis
Appliance used for mounting mature silkworms to enable them to spin cocoons.
The process by which silk cocoons are treated in boiling water for a short time in order to soften the filament for easy unwinding during the subsequent reeling process.
A system for measuring the fineness or thickness of yarn by spinners, weavers and knitters, count is essentially a numerical expression indicating the mass per unit length or length per unit mass of a yarn. In Scotland the term is known as grist. In all other English speaking countries the term “count” is used.
A fabric characterized by a crinkled, puckered or pebbly surface with highly twisted yarns in the weft and sometimes in the warp or both. Crepe is usually made with a plain weave. The crinkly texture of this soft and pliable fabric can be smooth or quite rough. The fabric is woven from all of the major fibers, natural or man-made. Surface textures range from fine, flat crepes to pebbled and mossy effects; some surfaces resemble tree bark.
Silk Crepe is a luxurious fabric with a good sheen and a pebbly texture obtained by using high twist yarns. Silk Crepe has a beautiful drape, and is extensively used to make dresses, slacks, skirts, lightweight suits, bridal gowns, and evening wear.
Crepe de Chine
Crepe de Chine ('krape dee sheen'), French for “Crepe from China,” is similar to Silk Crepe, but lighter weight and less textured fabric made with S and Z highly twisted filament yarns alternating in the weft and with a normally twisted filament warp. The matte surface and pebbled texture of this graceful fabric reflect individual pinpoints of light, giving it wonderful chromatic depth and striking eye-appeal. This luxurious silk has the additional virtues of great durability and excellent wrinkle resistance. Lightweight with a pleasing drape, designers choose it among silk fabrics for elegant slacks, skirts, dresses, suits, and eveningwear.
Crepe / Geogette Yarn
Twisted yarn usually with 2000 to 3600 tpm (twists per meter), generally made of two threads of raw silk.
Highly twisted yarn generally with 1200 to 4000 tpm (twists per meter) used for producing crepe effect in woven or knit fabrics.
A dress fabric in crepe but heavier and more rugged than the average crepe. It is usually made with silk or rayon. The crepe effect appears in the direction of the warp and is produced either by different degrees of twist in the yarn, or by employing only right-or left-hand twist yarns, or by weaving some warp yarns slacker than others.
A technique of twisting raw silk over itself in the process of reeling with the object of consolidating the different filaments constituting raw silk rounding off the angularities of the thread and squeezing off the extra moisture and gum.
Nett silk from which the gum has been completely removed. Also called Bright silk.
A heavy jacquard fabric woven in silk, linen, cotton, worsted wool and man-made fibers. Traditionally woven with an 8 and 8 satin weave. The reversible pattern is distinguished from the background by contrasting luster. The word derives from a rich silk fabric introduced into Europe through Damascus.
The process of removing natural gum or sericin from silk yarn or fabric by boiling in a soap solution.
A unit of measure by which silk yarn is weighed and its fineness calculated. This unit expresses the linear mass density of silk filaments (or manmade fibers and yarns) given by weight / mass in grams per 9000 meters of material.
In the International System of Units, the Tex is used instead of denier.
A cocoon jointly built by two silkworms; it serves as protective shell for both the worms during their pupal stage of existence. Such cocoons are readily distinguished by their size and toughness.
The twisting together of two or more silk threads to give a yarn suitable for weaving, knitting etc. etc.
In the spun silk industry, the process of sorting out fibers into groups of different lengths. Neps and Noils are also removed during the process.
An Indian term for a kind of fine long women’s scarf or shawl made from cotton or silk.
Douppioni (also called Doupioni, Dupion, Dupioni)
Douppioni Silk is a lustrous silk often woven from two different colors of threads, so that it shimmers or changes color in the light. Douppioni is made from an irregular, rough silk reeled from double cocoons or cocoons nested together, making it necessary to reel them together. [Doupioni is also seen in man-made fibers such as polyester or acetate, and is referred to as Doupionini.]
An elegant woven fabric made with a tight plain weave, fine warp yarns, filling yarns that form prominent, irregular crosswise ribs. Usually brightly colored, it has a moderately crisp drape, fairly reflective luster, and a nubby texture. It is crisp to the touch; it doesn't wrinkle badly; nor does it hold a crease well. Douppioni is sturdy and substantial, but not durable. It is reversible, not particularly stretchy, and relatively easy to sew. It is commonly used to make blouses, dresses, skirts, and fine lightweight suits.
Silk formed by two worms united to spin a single cocoon which is therefore composed of two filaments. Reeled into a coarse slubby yarn which is used in the manufacture of douppioni, pongee, shantung, and other textured silks.
Please see Peau de Soie.
A loosely twisted silk or man made fiber yarn composed of untwisted or single yarns.
The degree of evenness of raw silk panels with approximately the same length as the sizing skein, determined on the basis of incidence of evenness defects by using official standard photographs for evenness and official standard variation photographs. Evenness defects are those portions of raw silk which show stripes caused by the variations in the size of the raw silk to such a degree as is easily noticeable by visual inspection. Evenness is expressed as percentage.
An extremely fine filament produced by the longitudinal splitting of a normal silk filament or brin.
The fiber material of raw silk thread, which is a protein not soluble in boiling water. It constitutes about 80 percent of silk fiber. Mulberry leaves eaten by the silkworm get transformed into this semi-liquid protein called fibroin.
A fiber of indefinite or extreme length, e.g., silk filament, which runs from 300 to 1200 meters.
Same as Reeled Silk.
An establishment for the production of raw (reeled) silk from cocoons, employing modern techniques, such as steam for heating and power for driving the reels.
Loose silk from the outer part of the cocoon, which is retained before reeling is started and used in the production of spun silk. It is of low grade and is available only in small quantities. It is also known as Blaze (in French).
The term floss is also applied to soft silk yarn or singles without twist, used in embroidery and electrical insulation of wires.
Four Ply Silk
Four ply silk is a heavier version of silk crepe made with four ply yarn. A four ply yarn is made from twisting together four individual yarn strands. The resulting fabric is medium to heavy weight, smooth and flat, with a crepe finish and a good deal of luster. The fabric tailors and drapes beautifully and is a favorite for bridal usage.
French term for the silk waste brushed from the outer layer of cocoons prior to reeling. Such waste is also described as strusa (Italian), knubs (English), and kibizzo (Japan and China).
Silk gabardine is a dressy smooth twill weave fabric, characterized by the distinct diagonal line on the fabric. Faintly lustrous, it has a beautiful drape, resists wrinkles, but creases well. Durable and crisp, gabardine is most often used for skirts, slacks and suits. Easy to sew, doesn't show pin marks. Does unravel, so seams should be finished.
Silk gauze is a sheer, thin open weave fabric sometimes confused with organza. Silk organza is heavier and crisper. As it so unds, silk gauze is more loosely woven, and fairly floppy. Unlike its cotton cousin, silk gauze is not used for bandages.
Fine, lightweight, plain weave, crêpe fabric, usually having two highly twisted S and two highly twisted Z yarns alternately in both warp and weft. Made of crepe yarn, silk georgette has a grainy texture, a sheer feel, and a thin, very dry hand. It is heavier than chiffon, and is similar to silk crepe, but is not as soft or lustrous as crepe. Georgette is durable, but snags easily. Drapes very fluidly, and falls into soft ripples.
With its creped surface, this sheer and strong silk fabric is great for blouses, bias-cut flared skirts, evening wear, dresses, and scarves. Doesn't show pin marks, and doesn’t hold a crease. Relatively difficult to sew.
Classification of raw silk on the basis of tests carried out according to standard methods in silk conditioning houses. The qualities taken into consideration are winding, size, tenacity, elongation, evenness, cleanness, neatness, and cohesion. [See also Cocoon]
An institution where silkworm seed is produced and sold to rearers.
A method of reeling a skein of raw silk in which the yarn makes definite and regular crossings, differing from yarn reeled in parallel rows.
Cocoons containing live pupae.
Gum (in Silk Filament)
Same as Sericin
Thrown silk from which gum or sericin has not been removed.
Hard unwindable places in skeins of raw silk or in silk waste, due to the presence (at the time of production) of excessive amounts of moisture, which causes the gum to soften and then harden to an aggregated mass of filaments and gum.
Bits of silk collected as waste in the re-reeling of raw silk at the filatures or during throwing and weaving. Called Strazza in Italian or Brourre in French.
Habutai is a Japanese word meaning “soft as down.” Habutai is a plain weave of silk, originally hand woven of single warp yarns and filling yarns of hand-reeled silk, which made it slightly irregular. Habutai usually has a natural, ecru color, and is known to wrinkle less than other fabrics. Both Habutai and China silk are soft, lightweight and lustrous. Very closely related, both have a soft graceful drape, and a smooth surface. This silk is the "hand" or touch that many people identify as silk. Habutai is natural in color, sheer and ivory, and China silk is smoother and usually dyed. Seams may pull open on tightly fitted garments. Sews relatively easily, and doesn't show pins marks. It is best for lingerie, dresses, blouses, and light jackets.
Hankie (also called Mawata Square)
Textile material in coiled form. After cocoons have been partially degummed, the fibers are expanded and stretched by hand over a frame forming approximate 10" squares. Handspinners use this form of fiber to make yarn. [See also Caps]
Imago is the last (adult) stage of development of an insect, after the last ecdysis (moulting) of an incomplete metamorphosis, or after emergence from the pupae where the metamorphosis is complete. As this is the only stage that is sexually mature and has functional wings in winged species, the imago is often referred to as the adult stage. The Latin plural of imago is imagines, and this is the term generally used by entomologists. However, imagos is also acceptable.
A special fabrication in which a pattern is woven directly into the material.
A device for weaving such elaborate designs by a machine was invented between 1801 and 1810 by Joseph Marie Jacquard (1752 1834). The Jacquard mechanism is attached to a loom and operated by a punched card system which selects individual warp threads.
A variety of mechanically operated jacquard machines exist providing control over 100, 200, 400 or 600 ends. There are also Jacquard systems for knitting machines. Jacquard systems can now be electronically controlled.
An Indian term for fine fabric with ornamentation made with gold and silver threads.
Silk fabric made with 2/1 right hand twill weave that gives a soft finish.
A larva (Latin; plural larvae) is a juvenile form of animal with indirect development, undergoing metamorphosis (for example, insects or amphibians). The larva can look completely different from the adult form, for example, a caterpillar differs from a butterfly.
Larvae often have special (larval) organs which do not occur in the adult form. The larvae of some species can become pubescent and not further develop into the adult form (for example, in some newts). This is called neoteny.
Lousy Silk (Lousiness)
A defect in silk yarns or fabrics consisting of little specks caused by the fibers splitting and curling up i.e., fibrillation of the silk filaments. This forms small neps that, in dyed fabric, are evident as white specks.
Matka is an Indian term for rough handloom silk fabric made from very thick yarns spun out of pierced cocoon in the weft and organzine in warp. The yarns are obtained from short ends of silk from Mulberry silkworms (Bombyx mori) and spun by hand without removing the gum (sericin).
As such, there are slubs and irregularities that give the fabric a unique character. It looks something like tweed, but the fibers are all the same color. Matka sews easily and is good for suits, jackets, and furnishings.
Please see "What is Momme in silk fabric & What is thread count?"
Sometimes referred to as univoltine. A breed of mulberry silkmoth that produces only one generation per year. Found in temperate regions, this breed hatches only in the spring. [See also Bivoltine]
Moulting (Skin Shedding)
Silkworms moult (shed their skins) four times from a silkworm into a larger silkworm and then once more when fully grown into a pupa within the cocoon. Moulting is a vulnerable time for silkworms and is usually indicated by worms staying still for long periods of time without feeding and the head becoming very small. Silkworms should not be disturbed at this time. They will eventually shed the skin, rest for a while, and then begin feeding again.
The common name of the Antherea assama caterpillar which eats the leaves of the Som tree (machilus bombycine) or Soalu (litsaea polyantha). This is a wild caterpillar reared in Assam, India. The silk produced is golden in color.
A fabric woven using Muga Silk in warp and weft, mainly produced in Assam, India.
Common name of the Morus alba tree, which is the sole food of the Bombyx mori silk producing caterpillar. It is a hardy perennial tree and yields silk mainly of yellow, white, or greenish yellow color.
Also called polyvoltine. Cocoons built by a silkworm race with more than two generations (life cycle) in a year. [See also Monovoltine and Bivoltine]
Woven fabri c generally not exceeding 45 cm (18 in) in width.
Native silk is a very coarse silk yarn in the order of 30/35 denier and 56/70 denier, generally reeled from inferior cocoons. The reeling process is the same as in the case of raw silk.
The degree of neatness of raw silk panels, determined on the basis of incidence of defects which are smaller that those classified as ‘minor cleanness defects’ by using official standard photographs for neatness. Neatness is expressed as percentage.
Small bundle of tangled undeveloped fibers. The undeveloped fibers do not take dyestuff, and thus neps appear as small white dots in fabric. Normally used in the plural, as you seldom find just one nep. [See also Lousy Silk]
Raw silk filaments or strands which have been processed into yarns by twisting or folding, or both.
Silk Noil (sometimes incorrectly called raw silk) comes from the use of very short fibers (called, appropriately, 'silk noils') to weave the fabric. The short fibers are separated from the long fibers during combing in the fiber preparatory processes before spinning.
Noil has a nubby feel with a low sheen. It resembles cotton in surface texture and sews easily. When these short fibers are spun into yarns, the resulting yarns have occasional slubs and specks that add to its appeal. Nubs vary between different weaves. Sportier in appearance, noil has the look of hopsack but is much softer.
Higher quality noil yarns are easy to use. It is a good practice to tug on a noil yarn to be sure of its practicality as a warp. The majority of plied noils can be used for warp but most single-ply noil yarns are too easily broken to withstand warping, though work well as weft. Noil has the strongest silk odor due to impurities in the yarn. The majority of the smell dissipates after washing, but can return again when wet.
"The word Noil actually refers to fiber length, but is casually and usually used to refer to silk fabric made from short fibers."
Silk Organza is a sheer, thin open-weave fabric that is heavier and crisper than silk gauze. It has a smooth, flat finish, is strong and durable, and gets its stiffness from tightly twisted yarns. Often used as the base fabric for embellished fabrics.
This plain weave sheer silk is made with a loose plain weave and tightly twisted yarns that have 10 to 20 turns per inch. Organza is similar to cotton organdy except it is made with silk and is transparent.
Organza has a crisp drape, which requires special sewing techniques for seams, facings, and hems because they can be seen from the outside of the garment. It is mostly used for interfacing, veils, and undergowns.
Peau de Soie (also called Duchess Satin)
French for ‘skin of silk,' Peau de Soie is a stout, soft silk with fine cross ribs. A medium weight fabric with satiny finish, it looks like Charmeuse, but Peau de Soie has a moderately stiff drape. Used in evening wear, bridal gowns, and elegant dresses. Sews easily, but pins and needles leave marks.
Please see Multivoltine.
A plain woven, thin, naturally tan silk fabric that has a rough weave effect.
A pupa (Latin pupa for doll, pl: pupae or pupas) is the life stage of some insects undergoing transformation. The pupal stage is found only in holometabolous , those that undergo a complete metamorphosis, going through four life stages; embryo, larva, pupa and imago.
The pupae of different groups of insects have different names such as chrysalis in the Lepidoptera and tumbler in mosquitoes. Pupae may further be enclosed in other structures such as cocoons, nests or shells.
Continuous filaments of silk, with no twist, which have been reeled from cocoons but are unprocessed and still containing sericin.
Reeled Silk Yarn
Reeled, or filament, silk is the highest quality yarn and is very white and shiny. Cocoons are inspected and sorted, as only those with a perfect shape can be used for the reeling procedure. Cocoons are soaked in warm water to soften the gummy sericin.
The silken strand from a single cocoon is too fine to use alone, so individual filaments of 6-20 cocoons are unraveled at the same time, traveling through a very small eye. The softened sericin dries, hardens and binds the strands together to become one thread the size of a human hair. The majority of reeled silks supply large industrial looms.
[See also Spun Silk Yarn]
Spun (not reeled) silk yarns that have been degummed by a lengthy and very smelly fermentation process.
The peculiar scrunching or rustling sound silk acquires when treated with certain organic acids (such as acetic and formic acid).
Sericin (also called Silk Gum)
A sticky protein material that coats the fiber filaments as they are extruded from the silkworm’s spinnerets. This gum bonds the filaments of silk together and aids in the formation of the cocoon.
Modified salivary glands or silk glands on the mouthpart of the larvae.
Rearing of silkworms for the production of raw silk.
A douppioni type of silk that comes from Shantung province in China. This fabric is woven from wild silk, and comes with slubs and a subtle sheen.
A fabric wove n with different colored warp and weft thread so as to make a tinted or iridescent appearance.
The Silk Road, or Silk Route, is a name given to an interconnected series of trade routes through various regions of the Eurasian continent mainly connecting Chang'an (today's Xi'an) in China, with Asia Minor and the Mediterranean. It extends over 8,000 km (5,000 miles) on land and sea.
Trade on the Silk Route was a significant factor in the development of the great civilizations of China, ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, India and Rome, and helped to lay the foundations for the modern world.
Long coils of yarn or hair intended for weaving, dyeing, or heat setting. Bulk yarn is sold in skeins that often need to be re-wound into spools or balls depending on the application. A skein is not a specific unit of length.
Glandular opening on the silkworm where the silk is extruded.
Spun Silk Yarn
The weak filament of the transparent silken envelope remaining from the reeling process – as well as the damaged, discolored, or imperfectly shaped cocoons – become the raw material for lustrous, creamy colored spun silk yarn. This cocoon "waste" must first have the sericin removed (degummed) with soap and water. Next, the fiber is cut into uniform lengths and carded to remove short tangled bits as well as the brown pupa inside the cocoons. Combing lays all the fibers parallel in a sliver which is spun into a shimmering yarn. Spun silk is the most familiar yarn made available to handworkers. [See also Reeled Silk Yarn]
A Latin word meaning “to weave.”
The process which links the production of raw silk with weaving. Individual filaments of de-gummed silk are so fine that they become separated if not twisted or thrown. Throwing will strengthen silk for weaving, particularly in the preparation of warp yarn, and also increase the diameter and denier of a silk yarn, depending on the type and weight of fabric to be woven. Throwing consists of the following four operations, each requiring special machinery:
- Bobbin winder
- Ring doubler
- Hank winder
Silk thread consisting of two or more singles twisted together like a rope, in a direction contrary to that in which the singles of which it is composed are twisted.
Silk thread or cord made by three processes of twisting; first into single s, two or more of which are twisted together making dumb singles, and several of these twisted together to make thrown singles.
Tram is medium twisted thread formed by twisting 2 to 3 silk yarns together with low twists of l00 to l50 tpm (twists per meter). It is moderately strong, soft, has a good hand (feel), and is mostly used as weft.
Tussah (also called Tussar, Tasar, Tussore)
A medium to heavy weight silk made from free-range (Woo Hoo) wild silkworms of the Antheraea mylitta or Antheraca proylei species. The warp and weft yarns of this plain weave silk fabric are very different, giving tussah the look of woven grasses. Tussah is relatively uneven, has small lumps and is less lustrous than cultivated silk.
It does however tend to be stronger, perhaps because it is a somewhat thicker fiber. Because of tannin-rich diet, Tussah is almost always a natural brown color. But it does dye well, and is good for suits, jackets, and home decoration. Sews easily but may unravel, so finished seams are advisable.
The name Tussah is also associated with the Antheraea silk producing caterpillar. This caterpillar is raised in the forested regions of China, Korea and India, and has a different diet from its Bombyx mori cousin – relying mostly on Arjun tree (terminalia arjun), Asan (terminalia tomentosa), and Oak (querus).
Tussah silkworms are protected and harvested in jungles and forests by indigenous peoples in Asia. These silkworms seem to have rejected all attempts at total domestication. Tussah fibers are derived from cocoons collected after the moth has emerged naturally in the field, and are a little coarser than the cultivated Bombyx mori.
Whether they are reared in the tropics or temperate climate, the leaves they eat contain tannin, the ingredient in tea that leaves a stain in your cup. The natural color of tussah silk is, therefore, warm honey beige.
Made from silk yarns woven in a twill weave which gives the fabric a soft hand and high durability, making the fabric ideal for sportswear. Used in blouses, skirts, and dresses.
Twill, a textile weave in which the filling threads pass over one and under two or more warp threads to give an appearance of diagonal lines. Twill is very strong and soil resistant with an appearance of fine diagonal lines.
This is one of the three basic textiles weaves, producing a fabric with a diagonal rib, ridge, or wale.
Silk velvet is a soft, elegant fabric that looks and feels expensive. It drapes better than other velvet, falling close to the body.
The silk velvet mostly available is silk rayon combination: rayon pile on a silk base (often in an 80-20 ratio respectively). 100% silk velvet is rare and expensive.
The practice formerly used to compensate for the loss of the sericin weight during silk processing. Usually done with tin salts. This causes the fabric to be brittle and wear badly.
Wild Silk Production
Wild silk is obtained from cocoons that silkworms produce in a natural uncontrolled environment. The most common type of wild silk is Tussah Silk. Tussah silk is dark in color, coarse in texture and cannot be bleached.
Duppioni is another type of wild silk. Duppioni silk is produced when two silkworms spin cocoons that ar e joined together.