Silk, Raw Silk, Satin Silk, and Bombyx Mori: The Basics

Silk production originated in China and has been around for thousands of years, however for centuries the west knew little about how silk was made because the Chinese kept the techniques secret.  Eventually, silk production or sericulture spread due to Chinese migration and increased travel for trade.  Neighboring countries such as Vietnam and Thailand learned how to manufacture silk.  While silk production is a lengthy process, it can be woven in different ways to produce variations on the traditional fiber.  Silk scarves are produced using silk, raw silk, or satin.

What is silk?

Silk is a fiber formed from proteins secreted by silk worms known as Bombyx mori.  They are actually caterpillars, not worms.  Silk production begins when the female silk worms lay their eggs.  The eggs are incubated until they become larva which must be kept worm.  They are fed mulberry leaves for about four to six weeks at which point they have reached their maximum size.

What is raw silk?

Raw silk is produced by a coarse spinning process using silk which has not had the sericin, or natural gum that protects the fiber removed.

Raw silk appears less even and has a nubby feel and a lower sheen than traditional silk.  The nubby texture comes from the use of very short fibers to weave the fabric.  These fibers are can come from waste fibers that are too short for traditional silk production.

What is satin silk?

Satin is a type of textile weave.  The term satin simply refers to a type of weaving.  This weaving process enhances the appearance of the fabric and gives it a glossy finish.  Satin fabric may be constructed from any type of material, but silk satin is, of course, a satin weave using silk.  Silk woven in a satin weave is very glossy and shiny.

A true satin weave consists of four threads brought to the surface of the fabric to float over a single thread that runs perpendicular.  The top threads, or warp stands merge with the bottom, or waft strand during the floating process.  This allows large portions of thread to reflect light resulting in the shiny fabric.  This process can be done in such a way that either one or both sides of the fabric are glossy.

Benefits of silk

While silk can be more expensive than other fibers, it has enormous benefits.  Since silk is a natural material, your skin is able to breathe, allowing air and moisture to pass right through the fabric.  Synthetic fibers will not give you the same comfort as silk.  In the final analysis, the beauty and luster is unsurpassed.

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