Strong, soft, and smooth against your skin, there’s no material like silk. It’s a beautiful, luxurious material that humans have been using for thousands of years, and it has a timeless look that’s both modern, classic, and completely natural.
If you’re a sustainable fashion lover, there’s a lot to love about silk, especially because it’s versatile, comes in many varieties, and has a low environmental footprint compared to many synthetic fibres. Let’s take a closer look at the silk fabric types available today and where you can find ethically-sourced silks.
Where does silk come from?
Silk is created by Bombyx Mori (aka silkworms), which are caterpillars that transform into moths. Bombyx Mori is a descendant of the Bombyx Mandarina, the wild silk moth. For over 5,000 years, these caterpillars have been domesticated in China for the production of raw silk, eventually spreading to regions as diverse as Japan, Russia, and Korea.
Today, Bombyx Mori no longer exist in the wild. An excellent alternative to preserve this species is to keep rearing it for silk, using ethical farming and fibre production methods.
What are the different silk fabric types?
There are over 35 different types of silk fabrics used to make everything from clothing and accessories to bedding and home furnishings. Since there are a ton of options out there, let me go over my all time favourites:
Raw silk has a nubby, linen-like texture because it hasn’t been processed yet. After creating raw silk, lustring, steaming, breaking, and de-gumming the material makes the smooth, luxurious texture we all know and love.
Tussah or tasar silk
Tussah and tasar silk are often used interchangeably because their geography is the only real difference between them. Tasar silk is produced in India, while Tussah silk is created in China. These silks have a yellow, creamy dreamy colour before being dyed and a soft, breathable quality.
Charmeuse is a relatively heavy silk type with a luxurious texture that feels similar to satin. Many people confuse the two because they have a lustrous finish, although charmeuse is shinier. Charmeuse is a great fabric for creating flirtatious, feminine-looking dresses and blouses.
Who doesn’t love a silky smooth satin bathrobe or a beautiful satin gown or that makes you feel red carpet ready?
Satin is a popular type of silk fabric that has an eye-catching, opulent, and glamourous look. It’s one of the finest silks out there, but today, it’s not uncommon for it to be mixed with synthetic materials like polyester. Before making a satin purchase, double-check its ingredients to ensure you’re selecting it in its natural form, because plastic should never be part of your sustainable wardrobe!
What silk fabric type is best?
Mulberry silk is the best silk available today because of its durability, colour, and soft material it creates when the strands are woven together. It accounts for 90 percent of silk production and is considered one of the strongest natural fibres on Earth.
This type of silk is created by caterpillars that feed exclusively on mulberry leaves. Silkworms who feed on these leaves produce strong cocoons out of silk. During silk production, the cocoon is unravelled into a long strand and spun into the luxurious, soft fabric we all know and love.
Common uses of silk fabric
Because it’s so versatile and durable, you can use silk for a variety of use cases, including the following:
- Dresses and gowns
- PJs and robes
- Blouses and shirts
- Suits and ties
- Comforters and sheets
You’ll also see silk used around the house as tablecloths, curtains, sofas, and more.
What are the best types of silk fabrics to dye?
The easiest silk fibres to dye are silk hankies and silk caps. They absorb colour well and are simple to manage in the dye pot. It’s also easy to dye de-gummed silks like tussah or mulberry.
Where can I buy sustainable or ethically-produced silks?
Since worms produce silk, you might wonder whether it’s ethical or sustainable to keep this fabric in your wardrobe. This depends on how the silk is farmed, if the worms are being taken care of, and if they’re in an environment similar to their natural habitat.
That said, there are places where you can buy ethical, sustainable, and cruelty-free silk—like Ahimsa Silk, Eri Silk or Peace Silk. These brands are centred on creating cruelty-free, non-violent, and high-quality silk that you can feel good about wearing. Cruelty-free silk means the silk worm is not killed during the process of turning its cocoon into thread. Instead, the moth is set free when its cocoon is carefully cut open, thus allowed to complete its natural life cycle. For a full guide on more sustainable fabric sourcing look no more, I already did the research for you, just check out my past blog!
Choosing sustainable fabrics casts a vote for building a brighter future in fashion
When it comes to caring for Mother Earth, cutting our environmental footprint, and taking care of the Nature that’s all around us, choosing sustainable fabrics—including silk—is one of the best things you can do. Fast fashion is putting a massive strain on the environment and the earth’s resources. At Talú, I welcome you to join me towards making the industry more sustainable by using all-natural dyes and fibres.
Want to learn more about making more sustainable fashion choices? Check out my natural dyeing workshop to DIY at home or explore my natural dyeing services for sustainable brands that want to take a leap towards their commitment to the planet.