Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A Layman's Review of Silk

What is Silk

Silk is a continuous protein filament secreted by specific types of caterpillars commonly known as silkworms. It is the most loved fiber the world over. Natural sheen, inherent affinity for rich colors, high absorbency, lightweight (yet stronger than a comparable filament of steel), poor heat conduction ( warm in winter, cool in summer), low static current generation, resilience, and excellent drape are some of its irresistibly endearing qualities. 

Varieties of Silk


This is the most commonly known and understood form of natural silk. 

Mulberry silk is light weight, has a natural sheen and smooth feel. Majority of finished silk products available in the market are made from mulberry silk. 

The mulberry silk worm feeds on mulberry leaves and forms a smooth cocoon, from which yarn is taken out through a process called reeling. 

Mulberry silk is a rich absorbent of colors and is a printer's delight. 

India's Wild Silks or Vanya Silks reflect the exotic and untamed spirit of wild silk worm...in texture, feel, sheen and color. It has inspired designers to create distinct fashion statements in clothing and home textiles. 

Vanya Silks have baffling thermal properties, keeping warm in winter and cool in summer. 

Vanya Silk portray the rich crafts culture and folklore of the North Eastern and Tribal zones of Central and Eastern India. They are of three different types, each distinct in its characterisics, Tasar, Eri and Muga. 

The tropical or Indian Tasar Silks are highly textured and have a wide range of natural colors from off-white to beige and gold brown. It has a dull, uneven sheen and can also be dyed in a number or colors and easily blended with cotton, wool, linen or other silks. 

Well known Bafta fabric is a blend of India Tasar with cotton. Tasar is used in both spun and filament form. Tasar silkworms feed mainly on Asan and Arjun leaves. India is the second largest producer of Tasar silk in the world. 

Desi or Indian Tropical Tasar is produced by the species of worms known as Antharaea Mylitta. There is another variety of Tasar which is called Oak Tasar. It is produced by another species of worms called Antharaea Proyeli (produced in India ) and Antharaea pernyi (produced in China). It is a finer variety of Tasar.


Also known as Endi or Errandi Eri silk is produced by Eri silkworm, which mainly feeds on Castor and Kesseru leaves. 

Eri can be spun in coarse to very fine yarns and is home washable. It can also blend with cotton, wool, jute and mulberry silk. 

Eri silk gains better sheen with every wash. Its high warmth retention makes it very comfortable in cooler climes. It is popularly used for making Shawls, Stoles, Fashion accessories and Home Furnishings. 


The shimmering golden color, distinct look and smooth feel of muga is an instant inspiration to the interior, home and fashion designers all over the world. Muga commands highest premium amongst all silks. 

Reared in Assam, the Northeastern region and Cooch Behar in West Bengal, Muga silkworms feed on Som and Sualu Leaves. 

Muga yarn is generally used in the Assamese homes for home furnishings. The famous Sualkuchi sarees too are a product of Muga silk. 

Silk Care

Precautions during washing ( Source : Silkmark Brochure- Please try separately before following instructions)

1. Always wash silks in soft water. Add a pinch of Borax or ammonia, if the water is hard. 
2. Use a good neutral soap in the forms of either flakes or solutions. 
3. Light detergent may also be used in the case of hard water. 
4. Wash in lukewarm water by kneading and squeezing or suction. 
5. Rinse in warm water 2-3 times to remove traces of soap.
6. Add a few drops of citric acid or acetic acid to the final rinse in cold water. 
7. Silk with doubtful color fastness may be steeped in cold water with a small amount of citric or acetic acid for 1-2 minutes before washing. Squeeze lightly by hand to remove water. 
8. Always dry flat, in shade. 

Precautions during Ironing

1. Use Low to medium heat
2. Never spray water to dampen silk before ironing. This will cause water spots in the fabric. 
3. Silk should always be ironed on the reverse side if still damp.

Storage of Silk Products

1. Store in cool and dry place in brown craft paper covers. 
2. In case of sarees avoid stacking more than three, frequently reverse and change the folds. A small sandal wood piece instead of naphthalene balls would provide dry, cool and fresh air. Sweat should never be allowed to settle and should be removed by rinsing in cold water. 
3. Hang the silk products in good ventilated wardrobe or cupboard.
4. Use anti-mildew compound spray.
5. Warp in muslin cloth to avoid discoloring of zari. 
6. Use natural perfume like Sandalwood swatch for refreshning.
7. Plastic bags given as package material after laundering or purchase should not be used for storage. 

Thanks for your attention. Did you find the information you were looking for ? Please leave a comment. You can also join the Forum for your specific queries.

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