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Fabric 101: Silk

Fabric 101: Silk

Silk is probably one of the most celebrated material in human history. Think Silk Road! What other fabrication Roads have we had? 

This strong and beautiful fabric was invented first in China and the country still is the king of silk production. The earliest known examples of woven silk date back to c.2700 BCE and come from Qianshanyang and Zhejiang in China. For a long time, silk was reserved only for the Chinese Emperor, his selected family members, and high ranking dignitaries. The restrictions began to change and gradually more people wore precious material and gave the way to large production.

Silk was used for a variety of things, from strings to musical instruments, decorative objects, documents, and of course clothes. It was also used as a form of currency during the Han Dynasty. 

Silk is often associated with names like charmeuse, chiffon, taffeta; but these words indicate types of fabrication, not content. For example, taffeta comes from a Persian word tafta, which means glossy twist. It was used to call woven fabric with highly twisted silk fibers at the beginning but now it refers to the type of weave and texture and can be polyester. 

You all know that silk is made from the silk worm's cocoons. 

In the process of harvesting, the larvae are killed and it takes approximately 3000 silkworms to produce 1kg of silk. So animal cruelty issue is often argued in silk production and some choose peace silk as alternatives. Unfortunately, peace silk does not guarantee the happy life of tiny animals. This way of making silk does not kill the worms during the process but double the cost and the moths don't live more than a few days anyway. The environmental impact of silk production is large compares to other natural fibers but the material is superior to many others for its incredible strength and soft, smooth texture with a natural sheen.

People have tried to create silk all along.

 

 

Rayon, undoubtedly the best synthetic counterpart of silk, is made from wood pulp and its production and sales have been greatly increased. Rayon may sound better as non-animal fiber but uses toxic chemicals and workers exposed to the fumes from this process can suffer various diseases and increased risk of heart attack and stroke. There are advancements in creating bio-fabricated silk - Bolt Threads but it is not clear how long it would take for the lab-grown silk to become widely available. 

Search more, you will find the traditional southern Chinese silk making is actually a closed-loop ecosystem, which means there is no waste. 

So what would be your choice?