I’m officially dying to this mad Christmas rush. Just imagine that an Internet addict like me have actually been away from my beloved computer for 3 days straight – on a weekend too. What did I have to do instead? Well, for starters, I had to venture out into the snow to mix with the massive crowd at Rideau and St.Laurent malls, UGH. It has been snowing way too much in Ottawa this year…
Anyway, today I’m going to talk about things you need to watch out for when you shop for silk – both online and offline, and not just limited to silk pillowcases. Before you throw those metaphorical rocks at me, let me just say that I know this one is coming late for a lot of you who have already finished Christmas shopping, and I am extremely sorry! I will try to finish the silk shopping guide in as little time as possible so at least you would be able to do something about New Year’s day. Then afterwards I will give you pointers on how you should maintain your silk pillows and pillowcases so that you can care for them properly and enjoy them for a long time. Sounds good? (I hope)
Alright, let us get going then. The first thing you have to do before embarking on the adventure of online silk hunting is know what are the criteria you should be looking for. For starters, let’s look at what are the measurements commonly used to determine the quality of silk:
Momme weight: It’s likely that you have never seen the word “momme”. No worries, I haven’t either before delving into the world of silk. The meaning of the word is not nearly as intimidating as it sounds. Momme weight refers to the weight of a “piece” of silk fabric that is 300 feet long and 45 inches wide, in pounds; so if 300 feet of a piece of 45 inches wide silk fabric weighs 19 pounds, we say this piece of fabric is made from “19 momme silk”. Simple, right?
Thread count: Thread count is a more common criterium to measure fabric quality. Technically speaking, the name should be “threads per inch” or TPI, as it is the number of threads, counted both vertically and horizontally and then added together, of a particular piece of fabric that measures one square inch. It is most commonly used to measure the quality of cotton fabrics but can also be used with silk. Do note, however, that thread count is not the best criterium to measure silk quality as silk thread is very fine so it is common for silk to have a high thread count, regardless of quality. Momme weight is a much better unit of reference.
Mulberry vs Tussar/Wild silk: Most of the silk stores you see on google will say they are selling Mulberry silk, but some will claim to sell wild/tussar silk, and might even go to the lengths to say that wild silk is better because it’s more “natural” which is, forgive me for being blunt, ridiculous. Mulberry silk is produced by the silk worms of Bombyx mori moths, which eat Mulberry leaves(hence the “Mulberry”), and are completely natural. The process of Mulberry silk production is an ancient craft that had been in existence for over 2000 years in China and the old Chinese masters of silk-crafting served no one but the very royal families of China. The art of producing Mulberry silk has been in constant evolvement and it’s only reasonable to say that after 2000 years, it is really hard for wild silk to top the systematically bred and cultured Mulberry silk. Generally speaking, Mulberry silk has better color, smoothness, luster, fiber length, fiber uniformness and elasticity that wild tussar silk, in all its coarseness and dimness, can only dream of having.
With the information I have just listed above, the first criteria you should look for when you are aiming for high end luxury silk are what I would like to call the Big Three:
– 19+mm weight: higher momme weight means the silk fibers have better quality, are stronger, and also speaks a little bit about the craftsmanship. Silk items with a higher momme weight tend to be much more resistant to wear and tear, feel more solid and lustrous, and last a lot longer than their lower mm-counterparts (such as those flimsy silk lingerie that has a “must be handwashed” label.)
– 100% pure Mulberry silk: you need to make sure that the item you are getting is made from 100% pure Mulberry silk. I have seen numerous cases where the title of the merchandize proudly boasts of “silk” or even “Mulberry silk” and yet somewhere in a little corner in the description lurked a little sentence that read something like “50% silk 50% cotton” or “80% silk 20% polyester”, etc. Don’t be fooled – remember, if a vendor is selling top quality stuff, he probably would like everyone to understand why his products are better; leaving out the decisive “100% Mulberry” hardly seems like the way to do it.
– 400+thread count: This is less important, but sometimes when something has really caught your eye but the seller does not provide you with the momme weight, go hunt for the thread count. 400 or even 450+ thread count is the minimum requirement for high-end silk so don’t settle for less. Keep in mind that a thread count of 300 may be considered top end for cotton fabrics, but silk is a different story. The online store I’m affiliated with right now, Lilysilk, claims a whopping 750+ thread count for their top-end 25mm line of products so a 400+ thread count is fairly commonplace.
Now, not every silk dealer would care to provide these information in the descriptions of their products – some may be because they don’t have enough space to do so, others because they actually know that their silk is subpar and wish to market their products by NOT telling you what you should know. In fact, some of these vendors will boast of a few other things about their products which may or may not matter, and below are a few pointers on how to look right through some of the technical jargon:
Satin: When you search for “silk”, you will often get results that read like “satin pillowcases”, “satin silk pillow shell”, etc. Don’t be fooled – satin is NOT silk! In fact, satin is not even a type of fabric, it is just a particular way to weave any fabric so that the surface is glossy and shiny and the back is dull. Satin weave can be done with most textiles such as silk, polyester, cotton, nylon, etc., and with any quality of silk as well. So when you read “satin silk” in a product name, know it could very well be made with very low quality silk and break apart easily.
This is part of what came up when I searched “silk pillowcase” on
Amazon. See how cheap they are? Good quality silk sells for a lot more.
Charmeuse: Charmeuse is also a form of satin weave, albeit a special one, that is used only with lighter material such as silk and polyester. Generally speaking Charmeuse weave is softer and lighter in weight when compared with regular satin weave of the same material. Charmeuse is considered to be the best weave to use with pillowcases, but when you see just Charmeuse silk advertised in the name of an item, it is recommended that you check the big three before making a decision, as lower grade Charmeuse is very prone to wear-and-tear.
Raw silk: I suppose some vendors like to use the word “raw” to create a feeling of naturalness. Sort of like “organic” for produce I guess? In any case, raw silk is basically silk that has not undergone the process of sericin-removal and contains sericin at approximately 20%-30% of its total weight. Sericin, while possessing many great health benefits, is capable of causing severe allergy reactions; it also smells VERY awful so if you use it to make your pillowcase, you will need to love that smell very much to be able to sleep at night.
Finally, if you are buying offline, I would recommend that you go to the whichever store you are interested in and hand-feel the silk yourself, especially with pillowcases which you will be putting your face against every night for a long while. There is nothing like the actual touch of your hand that can give you more assurance on the quality of the product. Of course, that option is not always available with online vendors. I’m going to be subjective again and recommend Lilysilk as your online silk shop once more, as they offer free silk swatches (smaller pieces of silk fabric) of various grades and colors for you to see and feel before making your purchases. I’m sure most of you will agree with me when I say it’s better to be able to know what your product will look and feel like before you buy them, and Lilysilk provides you just that. Plus, silk swatches are free and they cover shipping costs too so what do you have to lose?
…and folks, that’s it for today! A little hasty I suppose – to be honest I had something else on my mind too when I started but I can’t seem to recall what it was. I guess I’ll just add it in next time if I ever remember. The next article will come after Christmas – it’s not like you want to read silk blogs when you are enjoying Christmas anyway, plus, I got friends coming over.
Anyways, here’s wish everyone of you a merry merry Christmas!