Silk is a continuous fiber, smooth and shiny. For centuries it was considered the queen of the fibers. In past times, there were periods in which the silk due to its rarity, was considered a highly prized luxury item and virtually unknown.

The raising of silkworms was a great unique business in China, the legend says that the Empress Shi found a way to unravel a silk cocoon under a mulberry tree in the garden of his palace, circa 2640 B.C. and it was a secret for more than three thousand years, until some Nestorian monks on the orders of Theodora, Vicenza Empress Theodora (northern Italy), risking their lives, got out of China with the knowledge they had acquired, with silkworm eggs hidden in their canes.

In the Middle Age the art of sericulture spread throughout Europe, but it was in the Far East where it has more development.

The process of silk began when the butterfly lays from 300 to 600 eggs in the course of seven days. The worms which are born have to eat large quantities of mulberry to become adults in about 32 days.

The spinning of silk consists in winding the thread from the cocoon in a similar manner as was made with a hank, dipping in water at 90 ° then brushing to find the tip of the wire and in a container of water at about 40 / 50 º getting together eight cocoons.

The normal length of a string is about 600 to 1200 meters, although in some cases it can reach 4000 meters.

Silk is a natural continuous filament (the only fiber that nature already provides spun) is a solid fiber and regular diameter.

As a fiber so expensive, it maximizes his performance. To do this, once the filament yarn, waste (cocoons where the worm has already left, the remains of wind filament, …) are treated to spin another time, and the last remnants unusable for spinning are still used for foams and other fillings.

 Silk is usually done as a luxury fiber. It has a unique combination of properties that has no other fiber: dry touch, natural shine, good moisture absorption, good hanging qualities, high strength.

The silk is superior to other natural fibers, their strength is comparable to the polyester threads but this strength decreases slightly when wet, it has great elasticity becoming longer than 20 to 25% before breaking. When you crumple a piece of silk with your hand, it returns to its original shape. In contact with the skin, it produces a sensation of heat from the first moment, the hanging is better than any other fiber, its resists acids but not strong alkaline: the chlorine damaged it and the hydrogen peroxide bleaches it.

Silk is a natural fabric very durable i fit is properly cared.
Washing: already painted silks can be hand washed in cold or warm water, without rubbing, with neutral detergents (or hair shampoo). It is advisable not to allow too much dirty to clean with a light wash. They should not be soaked. It can be dry cleaned with care.
If they get into the washing machine they must be placed inside a cover (such as a pillow) to not get caught, at a temperature of about 30 ° C in a delicate program. Of course, you should never use bleach.

Drying: To dry the silk you should not wring or twist or use tumble dry. A good method is to drain it between two towels, leaving it to air dry horizontally.
Ironing: Silk is best ironed while it still slightly damp. It should be ironed at medium temperature (between 100ºC to 160ºC), without pressing too much and for not too long.
Storage: The silk should be kept rolled rather than folded so that the fibers do not suffer in the fold and thus did not reach break. Similarly, using silk scarves, you have to avoid tightening the knots.
If the silk will be stored for a long time, it should be protected from light and insects. It can be stored rolled into a tube between the white tissue paper in a cool, dry place, avoiding plastic bags since it prevents it from breathing.

To sew the silk you don’t need specific tools and utensils. It is necessary that the scissors are sharp.

Needles and pins: to sew light silks by machine it’s recommended 60/70 needles. For heavy silks, you can use 70/90 needles. To sew by hand it’s better to use the finest ones. Never use with ball point, since they wouldn’t pierce the fabric and would pull it. Take care if the needles are blunt, they could damage the tissue.

Threads: Threads more akin to silk are silk, rayon and viscose, especially with lighter silks. They also work very well with 100% cotton threads. Cotton is weaker than silk, therefore, under stress, the thread will break before the silk fabric. The thicker silk blends are also accepted cotton / polyester.

Silk is an openwork fabric, that is done on a loom and is obtained by crossing and link two sets of threads, the longitudinal one (warp) and a cross one (weft).
The silk, being openwork, are defined by a series of ligaments, which is the way in which the warp and weft are interwoven with each pass of the loom. These ligaments define the pattern of the drawing that will make the threads of the fabric. Thus, different types of silk are determined by how they are woven and yarn (twisting the threads more or less determines some of its features: a slight twist provides smooth surfaces, highly twisted yarns produce fabrics with hard surface resistant to abrasion and less likely to get dirty and wrinkled, fabrics made from yarn shrink more severely crooked).

The most common types of silk (the common names which are often given to tissues that are found most commonly made from silk fibers) are as follows:

Whitin taffetas:

Pongé, Pongée, Pongee or Habotai: In the Chinese home loom (pen-shi), hence the name, it was made a silk of medium quality (in Europe called pongee silk, which was imported also spun for weaving in France, Italy, etc.). In Europe, pongee silk is a taffeta: a white cloth, light and a little bright, simple plot and variable weight, smooth texture, dense. Inexpensive and soft, steam and dry cleaning improves its brightness and touch. It is most common for painting, and has a good value.

Bourrette, rustic silk: silk type with heavier weight, rugged, grainy, and dull. It can be painted after degumming and bleaching. It is used for clothing or African batiks.

Chantung, Shantung o raw silk: silk fabric from the tasar silk worm, with taffetas ligaments, which takes its name from the Chinese province where it’s originated.

Crepe: From the Latin crispus, curly. It is a silk fabric whose warp is more convoluted the weft, which gives it a distinctive striated appearance. Its surface is wrinkled and dull, and you may wash it before to know if it shrinks or wrinkles. There are different types: Moroccan crepe, crepe georgette, Chinese crepe.

Crepe India, wild or Dupion Silk:Natural silk from tasar silkworm, shiny, crude, coarse texture and rigid with irregular wires that hinder the dye. Used for curtains, blankets and ceremony dresses.

Crepe satin: A variety of double-sided crepe ligament, a shiny satin (warp) and the other rough (weft). It has a great hanging.

Organza: Type of silk with taffetas ligaments, lightweight, and open weave. It has little hanging and much stiffener because their filament preserves the sericin.

Taffeta derivatives:

Faya: From the flamenco falie. Flamenco fabric, black silk and dye hank, weft fluted.

Moire or Moiré: From French moire. This tissue seems to carry a watermark, an effect that is obtained when subjected to pressure by engraved cylinders with the drawing to be achieved.

Whitin the serge:

Twill: serge fabric, very soft, very dense plot, very tough.

Whitin satin:

Satin: From French satin, Italian satino, and these from low Latin seta, serica. Satin is woven in silk, thick and soft touch, it possesses a brightness comparable only to some velvets.

Gasa, gauze: From Gaza, city of Syria. Very light transparency, subtle, fine and very soft, it is characterized by low density of warp and weft. Do not drain and should be ironed at low temperature, when almost dry.

Velvet: Dense fabric, short hair and very heavy on one side only. Generally smooth, drawings can also be formed when the loop is not cut. It was traditionally made of silk, but in the twentieth century is also made with acetate and rayon.

Jacquard: These fabrics are woven into patterns. Named after the French manufacturer Joseph Marie Jacquard, who in the early nineteenth century invented a loom that can be made highly elaborate designs fabrics with ease, which may even be of different colours. It was used for brocades and damasks.

Sometimes numbers can be found attached to the type of silk. This number corresponds to a level of weight (weight relative to the surface) of the tissue, a higher number means a thicker one.

Such a variety of silk fabrics offers a wide range of work. Each has characteristics that make it more suitable for some works than others. However, you can use stiffeners and interlinings to facilitate their use in different techniques.

If you sew by hand, it usually can be done without stiffeners and interlinings, since it’s mastered well with hands. However, you may want to give some body to the fabric so it does not “move” so much. In these cases it’s usually enough to iron with a little starch spray (Toke).

Other stiffeners are applied in bath: rice starch, corn or potatoes, “prestomil”, etc. It’s recommended to use when you have to stiff very large canvases, but always test a small piece before. To test a stiffener, it is best to be careful not to abuse of it. It is always better to have to take two baths or pass than to be too stiffed, since some cost to remove it.

For sewing machine, especially when working with small parts, you can stiff with starch spray. But to achieve some stability similar to that of cotton, you can iron fusible tape with little weight in the back of the silk.

As a guideline you can use the table for working with silk and materials. However, experimentation is highly recommended as sometimes the nuances of work are so subtle that it is better to find out personally how you work better.