Silk Satin

I was initially going to write about Duchess Satin today, then realized I didn’t really have a Satin post for comparison, so opted to do Silk Satin today. It was interesting was that neither All About Silk nor Fairchild’s Dictionary of Textiles had a specific entry for Silk Satin. I tend to believe that this is because Satin is a weaving technique which is used across all fiber or filament types, and not generally specific to Silk. While this is true of ALL weaving techniques, certain techniques are more commonly associated with Silk, such as Brocades or Organza.

Let’s start with a brief history. Satin, to no one’s surprise, originated in China, in a town originally named Zaytoun, later Canton, now Guangzhou. Guangzhou is still a MAJOR textile production area of China. If you search Ali Baba for textiles, a solid chunk of the return hits originate in Guangzhou. It is from medieval Zaytoun that Europe eventually became acquainted with Silk Satin, as Zaytoun, much like it’s modern descendant Guangzhou, was a major shipping port, and fabric was exported from there, by ship and by land along the legendary Silk Road. So what is Silk Satin?

Silk, obviously, is the content from which the fabric is made. The weaving technique is quoted from Fairchild as “A smooth, generally lustrous fabric with a thick, close texture made of silk…either in a warp face or filling face effect.” (p. 531)

Warp faced effect means that warp face fills the fabric, so that the weft or filling fibers are woven BEHIND the threads on the loom.

Warp Faced Satin

Warp Faced Satin

Notice in this picture that the weft threads appear irregularly woven, meaning there are long strands where the warp threads have nothing crossing over them in front. This gives satin fabric a very smooth all over even surface texture. Unfortunately, because those warp threads sort of float on top of the weft threads, it’s a little unstable, and prone to snagging.

In filling face satin, the weft threads are woven on top of the warp, but in stead of the standard one over/one under you see in a plain weave fabric, the weft threads float on top of 2-4 warp threads.

Same image rotated 90 degrees for effect.

Same image rotated 90 degrees for effect.

Whether filling or warp faced, Satin is prone to snagging. Even though the weave is fairly tight and dense, the threads floating on top are always just kind of hanging out there. But Silk Satin is a lovely fabric for elegant drape, will hold a crease or pleat, but is fairly limpid, probably not best suited for strictly tailored garments.