Wild silk (Tussah)
Wild Silk fabric is also known as Tussah and comes from certain types of wild moths, usually from China or India. Wild Silk fabrics are coarse or rough in texture and generally range from grey to dark brown whilst in their natural state. They have less smoothness and lustre than cultivated silk and have a ‘wild’ appearance. Some Wild Silk fabrics include Shantung, Honan and Pongee. The word ‘Tussah’ comes from the Hindu language and means ‘Shuttle’ which possibly refers to the shape of the cocoon. Wild Silk can be degummed and treated in various ways to improve the lustre.
Silk is a protein filament fibre produced by certain moths, spiders and other insects.
How is Silk made?
Silk fabric is created mainly by ‘Silkworm Moths’ called Bombyx Mori. These larvae are fed on Mulberry leaves to produce the only natural fibre that is a filament fibre. This means that it can be one long continuous fibre if the conditions are products needed for manufacture are endless. The worm secretes a protein like substance when it enters its pupa stage of life. This protein is called Sericin and it is wrapped around the worm in a cocoon for protection. The most common method of harvesting Silk is to immerse the pupa in worm water and then cold water to soften the gum-like protein. The silk filament can then be refined and processed ready to be wound into skeins and then woven into various silk fabrics.
The practice of rearing silk worms for silk production is known as ‘sericulture’ and has been practised in China for thousands of years, and was a national secret. Nowadays however, silk is still widely cultivated in China, as well as Japan and Italy and many other countries.
Different types of Silk Worm
The most commercial and common type of Silkworm used in textile manufacture is still the Bombyx Mori, however in Thailand they use cultured Bombycidae and wild Saturniidae breeds for their Thai Silk fabric.
Tasar, Muga and Eri silk are other variations of silkworm. These are mainly found in the wild, in remote forests and they produce ‘Wild’ Silk. This is also known as Tussah, eco, or Shantung Silk. This type of silk generally has a less lustrous look and handle as it is created in the conventional way, by the Silkworms chewing their own way out of their cocoon and therefore breaking the otherwise continuous filament.
Main Physical Properties of Silk Fabric
- Fine, Smooth, Lustrous Handle
- Elegant Drape
- Elastic, Fairly crease resistant
- Can be quite clingy and static due to it being a poor conductor of electricity
- One of the strongest natural fibres around
- Durable and Lightweight
- Cool, but also a good insulator so provides warmth when needed
- Not slippery like synthetic fibres
- Absorbs moisture well
- Reflects light giving it a shiny appearance
- Poor resistance to sunlight
- Retains its shape well and is relatively flat
- Is easily dyed
- Recommended as being dry clean only as it will shrink
- Can be used in the medical profession to created surgical sutures and to help people with serve skin allergies due to its non absorbable properties and flat, non itchy thread.
- Can be made waterproof using a polyurethane coating.
Although filament silk is mainly produced as a pure fibre, it can be blended with other fabrics to create fabrics with two purposes and therefore more end uses. Mixed with Elastane creates a shiny fabric that stretches well.
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