Silk is one of the most popular fabrics used in making waistcoats ( or vests ). Silk is now affordable compared to its historical prices. No other fabric engenders quite the same reaction. Throughout history silk has had a reputation as a sensuous and luxurious fabric, associated with success and wealth.
What is Silk?
Silk is a natural protein fibre ( like human hair ) usually obtained from cocoons produced by the larvae of the mulberry silkworm. The term ‘silkworm’ is a misnomer as they aren’t worms but caterpillars.
Properties of Silk
The shimmering shine of silk is highly valued and occurs because the diamond structure of the fibre reflects light in many angles.
Silk has a high absorbency which makes it more comfortable to wear in hot conditions and when active. It is easily dyed in many beautiful and deep colours.
Silk is the strongest natural fibre. Amazingly, a steel filament of similar diameter as silk will break before the silk filament!
A tightly woven silk will not shrink, so long as it was washed prior to garment construction.
History of Silk
Silk is one of the oldest textile fibres. Reputedly, silk production dates back in China to 3000BC. For centuries the method of making silk was a jealously guarded secret. Its use was exclusive to China until the Silk Road opened it up to the rest of the world. During the Roman times, silk was sold for its weight in gold. Historically silk was solely used by the upper classes and was a staple of pre-industrial international trade.
How is Silk Made?
Producing silk is a demanding and length process. To make high quality silk it is vital to prevent the moth emerging before the cocoon is gathered, and perfect the silkworm’s diet.
First the eggs must be kept at 65 degrees F and then slowly increased to 77 degrees when they will hatch. The worms have a tremendous appetite and must be feed fresh, chopped mulberry leaves every half hour. A silkworm can multiply it’s weight 10,000 times in a month!
When the worms are mature enough, they secrete jelly from their silk glands which hardens when in contact with air. This continues for days as they spin their warm cocoons. Next, they are steamed and hot water is used to loosen the cocoons off. The filament is then wound on to a spool. Each cocoon can release a filament hundred of metres long. It takes five to eight fine filaments twisted together to make a usable thread that can be woven into silk cloth.
Countries that produce the best silk include China, India and Thailand. All our silk waistcoats are designed and made in the UK. Each waistcoat is made for an individual customer.