Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Fabrics: Silk

When silk was first discovered, it was reserved exclusively for the use of the ruler. It was permitted only to the emperor, his close relations and the very highest of his dignitaries. Within the palace, the emperor is believed to have worn a robe of white silk; outside, he, his principal wife, and the heir to the throne wore yellow, the color of the earth.

Gradually the various classes of society began wearing tunics of silk, and silk became more of a general use. As well as being used for clothing and decoration, silk was quite quickly put to industrial use by the Chinese. This was something which happened in the West only in modern times. Silk rapidly became one of the principal elements of the Chinese economy. Silk was used for musical instruments, fishing-lines, bowstrings, bonds of all kinds, and even rag paper, the word's first luxury paper. Eventually even the common people were able to wear garments of silk.

During the Han Dynasty, silk ceased to be a mere industrial material and became an absolute value in itself. Farmers paid their taxes in grain and silk. Silk began to be used for paying civil servants and rewarding subjects for outstanding services. Values were calculated in lengths of silk as they had been calculated in pounds of gold. Before long it was to become a currency used in trade with foreign countries. It is possible that this added importance was the result of a major increase in production. It found its way so thoroughly into the Chinese language that 230 of the 5,000 most common characters of the mandarin "alphabet" have silk as their "key".

Types of silk:

Chiffon - Works really well for wedding dresses.
China Silk
Crepe de Chine
Charmeuse - Works really well for wedding dresses.
Jacquard Douppioni
Raw Silk

Silk is one of my favourite types of fabric to work with because it doesn't have to much stretch, it is easy to cut and sew. Anything I have made with silk has always turned out beautifully. For example, my sisters wedding dress, which you can take a look at in the "Portfolio Pieces" post. 

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