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18 Different Types of Silk: The Ultimate Guide

By Iris Ma |

For the love of silk

We enjoy silk. A lot. Maybe a little too much. But how can we not? With so many different types and nuances in texture, drape, and densities, silk is truly yours to discover. Here are common types of silk we’ve featured in our silk goods. We’ve also mentioned a few pure luxuries for the silk expert. 

What is mulberry silk?

Mulberry silk is a type of natural silk named after mulberry leaves, the feed for silkworms. The larvae of the moth produce long strand filaments that are reeled together for resilience. They are then twisted at the ends for continuous length. The pliable nature of these threads give silk its tensile strength. Their prism-like structure gives woven silk fabrics a luminous sheen.

It’s all about weave or the knit

Weave refers to how textile threads are woven together or the pattern of interlacing warp and weft yarns (vertical and horizontal). The weave of silk fabric determines its structure, durability, tear strength and its characteristics, such as smoothness and comfort. Knitted textiles are different. They are produced from yarns that inter-loop. These fabrics can stretch in all directions since yarns in knitted fabrics don’t run completely straight lengthwise or crosswise. 

Common types of silk fabric

  • Silk Satin/Charmeuse: Satin weave creates silk fabric with a shimmer in the front, living up to its French name meaning “charmer.” It also has a dull back, usually the underside for blouses, scarves, bedding, lingerie, evening wear, and gowns. It is used in menswear as lining for high-end sports jackets, handkerchiefs, and men’s boxers.
  • Silk Crepe: Plain weave, including tightly twisted yarns, creates silk fabric with a slightly pebbled surface. It is usually thin and airy like a delicious crepe. But its thickness depends on the type of garment. Lightweight crepe is used for blouses and lingerie while heavier crepe is used for pants and home decor items, such as curtains. Silk crepe 19 momme and up can sustain machine washing much better than other types of silk. Steaming it is also extremely easy.
  • Silk Georgette: Typically plain weave and part of the crepe family. Slightly crinkled and sheer with a matte finish and flowy drape. A staple in evening, bridal wear, and also used for blouses and dresses.
  • Silk Twill: Twill weave creates a noticeable texture or visible diagonal weave pattern. It produces a durable, opaque, and thicker silk fabric commonly used for scarves and ties. In recent years, it’s becoming the new favourite of scarf designers, taking the place of silk charmeuse, as it has a matte finish instead of a shiny one.
  • Silk Dupioni: Plain weave, medium weight silk fabric with a crisp feel and iridescent sheen. Woven with uneven threads that result in slubs running across the surface. Dupioni is ideal for jackets, blouses, and skirts. It is popular for bridal wear and home decor. 
  • Knitted Silk: Knitted silk fabric involves inter-looping silk yarn. Since yarns do not run straight or parallel, this silk has stretch and a slinky drape. It is also super fine, sleek, and half translucent. Used for undergarments, layered garments, and scarves.
  • Spun Silk Fabric: Made from short lengths of silk thread twisted together. These threads are gathered from damaged cocoons or silk waste during processing. Spun silk is soft, dull, and textured. It is used for dress trimmings, linings, sportswear, upholsteries, and drapes. 

Pure luxuries

  • Gambiered Guangdong Gauze: A plain weave silk specialty fabric, steeped in folk culture and lore, unique to the Guangdong province in China. Gambier refers to the natural dyeing and printing process. This silk is hand-dyed with yam extract, delicately covered in silt from the river in the Pearl Delta region, then rinsed and dried in the sun. This antibacterial, cooling, and lightweight silk is used for apparel. 
  • Silk Brocade: Silk fabric with an intricate embossed pattern, usually featuring metallic threads. Often confused with Jacquard, Brocade describes the decorative look of the fabric rather than the weave. Used in garments, home decor textiles, and upholstery.
  • Hang Luo: A silk fabric handmade on the Hanglou loom, using techniques handed down from generations. The strong yet sheer silk takes its name from Hangzhou, a historic city and hub along the Silk Road. It is usually used for summer dresses and skirts.

Silk meets other materials

  • Silk Velvet: Known for its luxurious feel, historically made from pure silk. Nowadays, it is typically made from 75 percent rayon and 25 percent silk, as pure silk velvet is pricey. Compared with cotton velvet, silk velvet has a shimmer and is also much softer to the touch.
  • Cotton Silk Blend: Combining the best of both worlds, these two natural fibres are usually spun together before they are woven. This silk fabric is feather light, comfy, sturdy, soft, and lustrous. This silk blend also survives frequent machine washing.
  • Linen Silk Blend: Softer than linen, this blend is wear-resistant due to the strength of both natural fibres. This fabric also wrinkles less, drapes better, and has a subtle sheen. Used for summer dresses, suits, blouses and shirts.
  • Wool Silk Blend: Smoother than wool, warmer than silk. Used for late summer, fall, and winter garments. It is an ideal fabric for jackets and suits. 
  • Cashmere Silk Blend: Velvety soft and lighter than wool, the addition of silk strengthens cashmere and prevents it from stretching out. Sweaters made from this blend also drape and have a bit of shimmer.

Techniques applied to silk fabric

  • Stretchy Silk: Silk blended with elastane for stretch. It is slinky and adapts to different body shapes.
  • Sueded Silk: This treated silk fabric has a faded appearance. It is abraded with fine particles, similar to sandpaper, to reduce silk’s luster. It is like a light frost, covering up the original shimmer and giving it a low-key, sophisticated beauty. Silk also softens up in the process.
  • Jacquard Silk: Jacquard fabric and its elaborate, textured patterns are directly woven into the silk or silk-blend fabric, traditionally by Jacquard loom. It is usually difficult to discern the right side or wrong side, since they share the same design in contrasting colourways. It is used for coats, formal wear, garments, home decor, and upholstery.

Satin: Say it ain’t so

Is satin real silk? It depends. When you shop online for a flowy summer dress, you may come across synthetic satin which is silk-like, but not a stand in. We say ”satin finish” to describe something that has a velvety luster. Satin is not a type of fabric, but the method in which a textile yarn is woven, which produces a shine on the “right” side and a dull back on the “wrong” side. So check for that “100% silk” tag if you are looking for real silk.

Last but not least

We’ve worn, collected, and studied this beloved fabric for over a decade and we are still obsessed. Stay tuned for our next blog post and new product launches by subscribing to our newsletter. In the meantime, check out our silk goods. If you have any questions please let us know.

By Iris Ma


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