In a previous article I’ve discussed the ancient tradition that textiles play in all our lives and my fascination with it so I wanted to explore the luxury & glamour of the most prized of all natural fibres….silk, my absolute favourite!
For thousands of years in the pre-synthetic era there were 4 main fibres used for weaving textiles – flax (linen), cotton, wool & silk. Since the industrial revolution we’ve been trying to emulate silk and all it’s beautiful qualities and have essentially failed. Viscose rayon and polyester were invented to replicate silk and whilst both have some of the desired qualities, nothing else, man made or natural, comes close to silk. Yes, it can be delicate, yes there can be laundering problems if you’re not careful but there is no other fabric that weaves that certain sort of magic – light, strong, lustrous with beautiful depth of colour. You’ll feel like the royalty the fabric was originally made for when you wear the queen of textiles.
The history of silk is mixed with legend and the mystery and beauty of the fibre is made more enchanting because of it. The story is detailed on the texteresilk.com website – “One day, when the Empress was sipping tea under a mulberry tree, a cocoon fell into her cup and began to unravel. The Empress became so enamoured with the shimmering threads, she discovered their source, the Bombyx mori silkworm found in the white mulberry…”. Silk was first produced in China and the textile and its production methods remained shrouded in mystery for centuries while they built a strong and lucrative trade in silk.
I wear silk, and am around silk all the time because of the work I do as a textile agent but there’s never a new collection that I view without the oohs and aahs. When I see the gorgeous new silk prints for the season there is something so mesmerising about the reflection and the way silk takes colour. There are so many technical things about textiles and in particular silk and although I understand a fair amount about textile production I’m still amazed that we can buy silks and wools at such reasonable prices. Silk, because of its luxury qualities and lengthy production methods is expensive to buy, on par with wool in price. It can be produced in literally every type of weave but is probably most famous in satin – the soft, shiny, sensuous fabric that shimmers with light.
Around 4 years ago my son got married and I was lucky enough to have a beautiful silk dress made for me by the business I worked for at the time. The dress is made from an outrageous seven metres of purple and gold silk satin burn-out and it made me feel like a movie star. Even now when I put that dress on, my posture changes and it makes me feel proud and beautiful to wear something so very delightful. It has a “twirling” skirt so when I walk it moves with me in the most magical way as though it’s alive. Life, and the way we dress these days can be very casual. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to have to dress formally or in expensive fabrics all the time, but to have those special occasions where you make the effort, well, I would never want to leave that behind.
But what about caring for your silks – aren’t they dry clean only? That really depends on who you talk to and in some ways, how much effort you want to put in caring for your special garments. Most silk fabrics come with Dry Clean Only care instructions but these days there are very good washing machines that have silk cycles and I personally hand wash or wash silks in a lingerie bag on a delicate cycle in my washing machine. There are specially designed detergents for silks and wools (protein based natural fibres) that will help you keep your silks in good order. You can find detailed instructions on washing silks with easy to follow instructions on www.texeresilk.com or www.tipsbulletin.com . They clearly lay out the options for you and give some great hints on caring for silks generally. There will always be a certain amount of risk and some garments must be dry cleaned because of their design or structure, but for me, if I can hand or machine wash, I will.
Towards the end of last year I made myself a dress made from a beautiful silk satin digital print with a dark navy border and a large rose print. The style is ultra simple to show off the dramatic print, it’s as light as a feather and I feel as though I’m wearing a work of art that flows and moves with me…delicious! I love that dress and I managed to somehow weave that dramatic, shiny, floral maxi into my everyday life. Maybe it shouldn’t always be the quick and easy option…