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Fabrics Used to Make Designer Clothes - Silk

Choosing the fabric your clothing is made with is important. This choice can make the difference in the look, comfort, durability, or practicality of the purpose of the particular article of clothing. The choice of fabrics is never more important that the clothes you wear every day at work. Your work uniform must be comfortable yet durable. It must be stylish yet practical. The average person will spend more time wearing their uniform than any other article of clothing with maybe the exception of sleep clothing. The fabric your uniform is made from is important and with today's fabrics you have a wider choice than ever.

Every fabric used to manufacture clothing today has its own characteristics and uses. When choosing clothing as important as your uniform, it is important that you understand the characteristics of the different fabrics. This is the first in a series of articles where we will explore the different fabrics and manufacturing process of common fabrics.

We will discuss fabrics such as cotton, wool, nylon, polyester and many other natural and synthetic fabric materials. Information will be presented about the history, manufacturing methods, characteristics, and uses of the different fabrics. Information concerning the cares of fabrics will also be presented.

This is the second in my series of fabric characteristics (the first was about cotton) and again we will go way back to the beginning of another natural fabric, silk. Silk dates back as far as cotton as a material in which clothing and material were made from. Silk was a material that separated the common man from the elite population of early times. Evan today, silk material is commonly found used by the upper class of society.

History:

The exact history of silk is somewhat of a mystery. Historians say that silk production, called Sericulture, originated in China 10,000 years ago. However ancient Chinese legends contribute the origination of Sericulture to the Chinese empress Si Ling Chi who ruled in 2,600 BC.

The story goes that one day Empress Si Ling Chi was sitting under a Mulberry tree in her palace garden drinking some tea. A cocoon from a silkworm fell into her cup of hot tea. She watched as the silk fibers of the cocoon began to unravel in the hot liquid. She became recognized as the goddess of silk worms.

The production of silk slowly developed into manufacturing process in China by the 14th century. Silk production became a cornerstone of the Chinese economy where the silk was used for musical instruments, fishing lines and bowstrings. Silk was also used to pay the civil servants in China as a reward from the rulers. The Chinese also used ilk in foreign trade exchanging it for spices and jewels brought from India.

The Chinese kept the secret of silk production to themselves for more than two thousand years. It was so guarded that a penalty of death was placed on anyone found guilty of smuggling silkworm eggs, cocoons, or mulberry seeds out of the country. But buy the year of 200 BC the secret of silk had spread to Korea and then slowly throughout the rest of Asia and India.

It wasn’t until the 13th century that silk production reached Italy when Persia sent 2000 skilled silk weavers. Thos led to the production of silk throughout Europe. Even though silk production has spread worldwide, China is still the largest producer of the world’s silk today.

Manufacturing process:

The manufacturing process of silk begins with the silkworm its natural ability to produce silk fiber and spin their cocoon with it. There are basically two types of silkworms. One is the silkworm that feeds on oak leaves and produce Tusha silk. The other, mulberry silk moth, produces the highest quality silk called Bombyx mori. This silkworm feeds on the leaves of the mulberry tree. The silkworms spin a cocoon that contains an average of 300-400 meters of silk fiber. It takes up to 5500 silkworms to produce 2lbs of raw silk fibers.

The production of the silkworm's cocoon to make silk filament is called sericulture. Sericulture is done under controlled conditions and environments on silk farms. The silk worms are raised from eggs and allowed to go through its entire life cycle. The optimal time for harvesting silk is at the cocoon stage.

The cocoons are harvested and sent to the factory called a filature. Here the cocoons are unwound into silk strands and collected on skeins. The operation consists of four separate operations:

Sorting of Cocoons; Cocoons are sorted according to color, size, shape and texture.

Softening; the sorted cocoons are immersed in a series of hot and cold solutions to soften the fibers to permit unwinding.

Reeling the filament; consist of unwinding the cocoons and twisting the strands together to make a silk thread.

Bailing; The silk thread is wrapped onto skeins and packed into small bundles called books. The books are put into bales and shipped to the silk mills where it is woven into material.

Characteristics:

Silk is a protein fiber which gives silk material its characteristics. Silk has a high tensile strength but won't stand up to heavy use or abrasions. Silk will become brittle when exposed to sunlight, high alkalinity, acid, or oily soils will breakdown silk fibers. The appearance of silk depends on the size of the silk yarn used to make the fabric. Large yarn may make the material appear more like cotton or a synthetic. Small well refined yarn will give the silk material the silky feel and look we expect.

Uses:

Silk is still today the primary material used to make our finest outerwear. Luxury clothing including fine silk suits and evening gowns are made of the finest silk material.

Other uses of silk material include:

Women's and men's lingerie because of silk's softness and brilliant colours.

Silk laces and tulles: Ideal for bridal gowns and veils

Hosiery

Scarves

Ties

Decorative articles such as bows and ribbons

Furnishing and upholstery

Insulation

Care:

For the most part silk garments should be dry cleaned to prevent damage of a breakdown of the fibers. Certain silks may be hand washed and line dried or tumble dried with low heat. Silk garments are also known as the wash and wear material because it is resistant to wrinkling.

Silk material is prone to moth attacks especially when in storage. Silk garments should be stored appropriately. They may be wrapped in a cotton fabric or other breathable fabric. Silk should not be stored in plastic or other sealed containers that can trap moister. This may lead to mildew and yellowing.

Chlorine bleach should never be used. This will cause the fabric to yellow and break down.

I sincerely hoped you enjoyed this article. Please look forward to my next article where we will discuss a synthetic fiber polyester.