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Silk Yarn • Silk Fabric • Silk Fabric History

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Silk Fabric

Facts About Silk Fabric

  • Chinese history credits the invention of silk fabric to Yuen Fei, the concubine of an Emperor who ruled in 2,600 B.C. Legend has it she dropped a cocoon into hot tea and it unraveled. She, by reason of the discovery, has been deified and is worshipped as the goddess of silk worms.

  • Tusah silk is produced by silkworms that feed on oak leaves.

  • Silk dupioni is produced from 2 silkworms that spin a cocoon together, thus making a strong double-thread silk. Dupioni silk is currently enjoying great popularity.

  • The finest quality silk is made by mulberry silk moth, Bombyx mori, which, of course, feeds on mulberry leaves.

  • The average cocoon contains 300-400 meters of silk.

  • It takes about 5500 silkworms to produce 1 kg (2.2lb) of raw silk!

  • One ounce of eggs produces about 20,000 worms, which consume a ton of mulberry leaves during their lifetime.

  • Silk has been unearthed in the Qianshanyang Village of Huzhou in Zhejiang (China) and has been estimated to have been produced 4700 years ago!

  • The term SHANTUNG (A heavy wild-silk fabric with a rough surface) comes from the region of Shantung in China. The term ORGANDY (crisp cotton or silk fabric) comes from the town named Urgench (in present-day Uzbekistan in Central Asia). It was on the old silk route and was an early market for Chinese silk fabric.

  • Countries all over the world celebrate silk by issuing stamps in honor of sericulture (silk production).

  • Early aircraft design utilizing silk stretched over a lightweight skeleton. Strength, durability and weight were critical characteristics that made silk the best choice.

  • In the next few years, we might be filling our closets with smart shirts that can read our heart rate and breathing, and musical jackets with built in all-fabric keypads. The electronics and computer industries are developing wearable devices and computerized apparel, so that they are virtually invisible.

    As with all clothes, computerized apparel starts with the proper thread. Silk fabric is ideal for computerized clothing because it is made with fibers that make it conducive to electricity. The first fiber is just an ordinary silk thread, but running in the opposite direction of the fiber is silk thread that is wrapped in a thin copper foil. It's this copper foil that gives silk fabric the ability to conduct electricity. Not only is this type of silk fabric a good electrical conductor, it's fiber's are spaced with the right amount of space, so that the fibers can be individually addressed.

    Photo courtesy MIT Media Lab
    A micrograph of silk fabric. You can see the copper foil that is wrapped around the horizontal threads.

    Photo courtesy MIT Media Lab
    A circuit fabricated on silk organza fabric.

    For more information


  • Silk fabrics must be protected from the sun. Draperies should be lined and even interlining may be desirable. Window glass magnifies the destructive elements in the rays of the sun. The winter sun and reflection from the snow are even more harmful than the summer sun. Colors can fade by oxidation, "gas fading", if unaired in storage for a period of time. Impurities in the air may cause as much fading as the direct rays of the sun. Avoid storing silk fabric in a basement or attic near a furnace. Furnaces not only give off fumes but also pull fumes and impurities from other parts of the home.

  • Dupioni Silk (also spelled Duppioni) is produced by reeling silk fibers from two silk worms that have spun one cocoon together and usually produces a rough yarn. Therefore, irregularity in sheerness or weight, sometimes referred to as bands or shadings, is characteristic of dupioni silk fabric. Black specks which occasionally appear in dupioni silk fabric are part of the original cocoon of the silk worm. Removing them would not only weaken the fabric but destroy part of its beauty and character. These characteristics are inherent to dupioni silk fabric and should not be considered as defects in weaving.

  • Dupioni is often marked 'Dry Clean Only,' but it can be washed if you wash it before you cut it out. Dupioni silk fabric loses much of its stiffness when washed, and just a bit of its sheen, but it still looks great. It will shrink up to 14% - 5 inches (13 cm) per yard - when washed, but it is very difficult to wrinkle after that. And no dry cleaning bills!.

  • Pretest washing with a sample swatch to see exactly what happens. Pre-treat the fabric for your project with the same process you plan to use for the finished item.
Our site offers a variety of silk fabrics suitable for apparel and home decorator projects. We also offer a large selection of patterns, many suitable for silk fabric. You can also find books and a full line of notions to help you complete your silk project. We show weight per square yard for all our silks.

We show weight per square yard for all our silks. With the exception of dupioni,
all weights are expressed in both ounces and mommes.
1 ounce (oz) equals 7.54 mommes (mm).