A protein fiber woven by Silk worms.
Originating in ancient China.
Some of the earliest examples found date back to 3500 BC.
How to care for it:
Silk is a protein fiber like hair. You should not do anything to silk you could not do to your hair.
Washing: Silk is weaker wet than dry for this reason many people chose to dry clean their silk. The bottom line is to be gentle. You certainly can wash many silks. Hand wash or gentle machine wash in cold water.
Silk you shouldn’t wash: Some silk has been treated with a finish to give it crinkles, ironed or steamed in patterns, given a glossy finish or texture. Washing pieces like this can damage the effect of the finish. Loosely woven silks should also not be subjected to washing. Dry Cleaning these types of silks is best. Use your common sense.
So what silk is washable? The relatively simply woven & plain surfaced pieces: habotai, crepe de chine, charmeuse, even dupioni, I prewash them all.
Drying: Hang Dry.
Ironing: Light to Medium Heat. Test a piece with steam. Tread Lightly.
Silk is silk is silk – the different titles of silk such as: habotai, crepe de chine, charmeuse, shantung, georgette, chiffon and dupioni refer to the weight and type of weave or (in dupioni’s case) the varigation in the filament of the silk fiber. Silk weight is described in mommes. Simplified, momme weight describes the weight of 100 yards of silk, 45 inches wide, in pounds. If a fabric is listed with a momme weight of 8mm, it means that 100 yards of the fabric weighs 8 pounds. When you use finer silk threads and weave them differently you can create a different surface texture and effect the appearance of the finished fabric.
To be clear I treat most of my silks fearlessly hard. I even wash my stiff silk organza. I like a bit of a sanded soft look to my items and my theory is to always prewash & treat my fabrics the way I plan to care for the garment. If you are an aspiring seamstress – I encourage you to experiment. Wash a swatch. If you just love the way silk wears and feels – read the care label & then proceed with brave caution. Garments that have not been prewashed CAN shrink. But dang – life’s too short for me to not wear an item because I’m fretting over stains or wear.