Silk is a natural fiber which is the product of the silkworm. Many different fabrics are made from silk, including chiffon, organza, georgette, charmeuse, dupioni, taffeta, satin, velvet, and brocade.
“Silk is a continuous protein filament produced by the silkworm to form its cocoon. The silkworm is the caterpillar of the silk moth (Bombyx Mori), and its cocoon is the shell it constructs to protect itself during its growth from caterpillar, to chrysalis, to moth. A single cocoon is made of a continuous filament that the silkworm extrudes from its body and throws about itself, layer within layer, into a thick, smooth, symmetrical ball larger than a robin’s egg but smaller than a pigeon’s.” (Ingham and Covey, The Costume Technician’s Handbook, pages 66-67)
“Silk is a product of the silkworm, most commonly Bombyx mori, which came originally from China. Silk is a filament fiber, meaning that it is extruded in a continuous length. It is this continuous length and smooth fiber surface that creates silk’s elegant luster. The silk fiber is also strong and warm. Raw silk was imported from China and Bengal to Europe, where it was woven into a variety of fabrics.” (Bassett, Textiles for Regency Clothing 1800-1850, page 13)
“Beautiful, luxurious to touch; has a deep luster. Available in a variety of weaves and weights from sheer drapable chiffon to stiff rich brocades in brilliant colors and beautiful prints for dresses, suits, blouses, linings, lingerie. Found in fabrics such as crepe, brocade, satin, jersey, tweed.” (Butterick, Vogue Sewing, page 50)
“The vast variety of silk weaves available in the early and mid-Nineteenth century is simply not present today. Care must be taken in selecting only those weaves and weights of silk that approximate textiles of that time. Taffeta, satin, faille, brocade, organza, batiste, broadcloth, bengaline, and velvet are all suited to period dressmaking, and are available in fine fabric stores and through some on-line merchants. Silks can be expensive, but durable when care[d] for properly. Silk dyes very well without losing its luster, so if appropriate weaves are found undyed, they can be custom colored for dressmaking projects.” (Clark, The Dressmaker’s Guide, 2nd ed., page 54)
For more information about an individual fiber, fabric, or other material, select it on the right side menu for “Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials.” This will bring up all entries which have that tag, including (in most cases) a Glossary post which will offer a definition of that fiber, fabric, or material, and sometimes also offer useful links to outside sources on working with it. For more general information, visit the core entry for the Glossary: Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials. For a directory of all textile glossary posts, go to the Glossary Table of Contents.
Glossary Entries for Silk Fabrics:
- “Silk” on Wikipedia (Remember to read critically!)
- “The Prewash” by Sarai at The Coletterie
- “Fabric Series: Silk” by Caitlin at The Coletterie
- “This Girl’s Tips & Tricks on Working With Silk” by Sunni at The Cupcake Goddess
- A thread about “silks” for mid-19th century use at The Sewing Academy
- “Tips on Sewing With Silk” by Tasia at Sewaholic
Print Resources: See the article Glossary: Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials for a list of print resources.
Updated January 10, 2012