Knowing how to iron silk is of utmost importance. This is what this article is for as I take you through the ins and outs of maintaining your favorite silk —whether it’s garbs or bed linens — to utter perfection.
But before I get to that, let’s first take you through a brief overview as to what silk fabric is, to give you a better understanding into why it’s taken cared of in such meticulous fashion. Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
Don’t want to read through our whole guide? You can use our table of content to jump to the part most relevant to you!
- What is Silk?
- What are the Characteristics of Silk Fabrics?
- What are the Main Kinds of Silk?
- How to Iron Silk the Right Way
- Top Rated and Recommended Silk Sheets
What is Silk?
Silk is quite popular when it comes to fabrics being used for apparel as well as bed linens because of its unique features. Silk is luxurious and one of the most comfortable and absorbent fabrics there is. It’s also long considered to be the most ideal fabric for drapes, the best fabric when it comes to color, in addition to its capability for the greatest luster. These are just some of the critical features that make silk fabric so beloved by consumers and manufacturers alike.
In spite of its beloved reputation, silk fabric has a tumultuous history, filled with wars, mystery, and centuries of trade; a remarkable fact considering its current reputation for being the epitome of high fashion.
The most lavish form of silk, a natural protein fiber, is taken from the cocoon of mulberry silkworm larvae. Silkworms lay eggs on distinct paper and consume only fresh mulberry leaves. Thirty-five days after hatching, the silkworms start spinning their cocoons. Each cocoon produces 1,000 yards of raw silk thread, which is then spun to make a “yarn” of silk. The process takes a long time and is very delicate to pull off right, which basically explains why silk is expensive.
The fiber gets its dazzling glisten from the way it is structured, which is a triangular prism that reflects light at different angles. Another variant of silk, “wild silk”, is made by caterpillars apart from the mulberry silkworm, and can be reaped in captivity just like traditional silk. The color and texture of wild silk tend to vary from the cultivated kind, and the fibers are often shorter, because of damage by the emerging moth. To keep the long, silken strands of fiber in cultivated cocoons, the larvae inside is often times pierced with a needle, and the cocoon is unraveled without any damage at all.
In talking about the origins of this luxurious fabric, we have to go all the way back to 6,000 BC when the wife of the Yellow Emperor, Xi Ling-Shi, went for a walk among damaged mulberry trees and saw the glistening threads attached to worms that were feasting on the plant’s leaves. Historians, however, tend to oppose the notion regarding how long it took before Xi Ling-Shi recognized the silkworms cocoons could possibly be harvested into silk, but one version tells the tale of the Empress dropping a cocoon into her tea and witnessing it unravel into silken threads.
China held a vice-like grip on silk trade for many, many generations and organized a complex and well-known trade system that later on went as far out as Europe and Africa, which was known as the Silk Road. High-quality silk was also made in Thailand, India and Western Europe, but the material wasn’t presented to America until the turn of the 17th century simply because early settlers did not have the resources to purchase the expensive cloth. Synthetics were later made as an alternative for the luxurious feel of silk fabric, but they dyed poorly and just did not have the iridescent quality of silk’s light-refracting prisms.
These days, silk fabrics are common in nearly every corner of the globe from Indian saris to French couture gowns. Its low conductivity has the ability to keep you warm during the frigid months, while its great absorbency keeps moisture away during the summer, keeping you cool when temperatures rise. The feel of silk fabric is uniquely smooth and luxurious, and the fabric ripples much like water. This quality makes it ideal for sexy lingerie and elegant dresses. It is a fabric oftentimes kept for special occasions, a cloth intended to enhance a moment or an experience.
What are the Characteristics of Silk Fabrics?
Silk fabric features a lot of properties that you can enjoy and benefit from. Read the list that I have compiled and briefly discuss below:
The silk fiber is primarily composed of 80% of fibroin, which is protein in nature and 20% of sericin, which is also called silk gum.
It is Remarkably Strong
The silk fiber features incredible tensile strength, which allows it to endure incredible pulling pressure. Silk is the toughest natural fiber and has enough resistance to abrasion. The strength of the thrown yarns is chiefly because of the unbroken length of the fiber. Spun silk yarn, although strong is weaker than thrown silk filament yarns.
It is Elastic
Silk fiber is a fairly elastic fiber and may be drawn from 1/7 to 1/5 of its original length before it eventually breaks. It tends to return to its initial size but steadily and slightly loses some of its elasticity.
It is Resilient
Silk fabrics keep their shape and have adequate wrinkling resistance. Fabrics that are made from short-staple spun silk have slightly less resilience.
It Conducts Heat
Silk is a protein fiber that is very suitable for winter apparel.
It Has Great Absorbency
Silk being protein in nature means it has good absorbency. The absorptive capability of the silk fabric makes it comfortable apparel to wear even during the warm season. Fabrics made from silk are comfy in the summer and warm in the winter. Silk fiber can often absorb an estimated 11 percent of its weight in moisture, but the range changes from 10 percent to as high as 30 percent. This particular feature is also a primary reason why silk can be printed and dyed on rather easily.
Easy to Clean
Silk fabric does not easily attract dirt primarily because of how smooth its surface is. The dirt, if ever any finds itself on the silk fabric, can be easily removed by washing or dry cleaning. It is often suggested for silk garments to be dry-cleaned. Silk fabrics should always be washed using a mild soap.
It Does Not Shrink by Much
Silk fabrics go through normal shrinkage but you have nothing to be worried about it this can be easily restored by ironing. Crepe effect fabrics shrink substantially in washing, but careful ironing with a moderately hot iron will restore the fabric to its original size.
It Resists Mildew
Silk fabrics will not mildew unless it is left for a considerable amount of time in a damp state or under extreme conditions of tropical dampness.
It is Suitable for Dyes
Silk features great absorbency and has a good affinity for dyes. Dyed silk is colorfast under most conditions, but its resistance to light is unsatisfactory.
What are the Main Kinds of Silk?
There are a number of different types of silk that are commercially known and made around the world. Some of the common types of silks include:
This is a satin-weave, lightweight silk fabric that features a shiny right side and matte wrong side. It’s also made from rayon, viscose, polyester or blends. Charmeuse is soft and drapes really well. It is mainly used for blouses, delicate dresses, and lingerie.
This super-lightweight plain-weave silk fabric is made from tightly twisted fibers and drapes really well. It’s semi-transparent or sheer, and has a fair bit of stretch and a slightly coarse feel, although it’s smoother and more lustrous than georgette. More inexpensive versions are made from polyester. Silk chiffon is commonly used for blouses, lingerie and evening wear. It can be quite difficult to handle when sewing and hems are best sewn by hand or with an overlocker. French seams are often used for sheer fabrics like this to give a neat finish, as they tend to show through to the right side.
This is a lightweight, plain-weave, smooth silk fabric that also drapes well. It has a matte texture and muted luster. It is used for making lingerie, blouses and evening wears.
This is a luxurious, textured, lightweight silk fabric that is treated with an acid to burn away the nap to uncover a pattern. It’s often used for smart dresses and evening wear.
This is also called doupioni and slub silk. A medium-weight, plain-weave silk fabric which has a crisp texture. The fabric is woven tightly with a different sized weft and warp threads that give it a textured appearance and highly-lustrous surface. It’s generally used for posh dresses, jackets, evening wear, and bridal wear.
This is sometimes called China silk. Plain-weave, glossy silk fabric, which is woven in both light- and medium-weight versions. Habutai was woven in Japan, but these days, they now come from China. The fabric is soft with a lustrous finish and is used for dresses, lingerie, blouses, jackets, scarves, and linings.
This is also called crêpe Georgette. This is a lightweight, loosely woven sheer fabric made from highly twisted yarns. It has a crinkled surface and is made in plain and patterned versions. Its main uses are for blouses, dresses and evening wear.
This is a very fine, sheer plain-weave silk fabric with a sheen. It’s woven from highly twisted threads that make it very strong. Though lightweight, the fabric is crisp and is often used for trims, collars, facings and fabric flowers as well as for evening and bridal wear.
This is a medium-weight, plain-weave silk fabric that is woven from irregular threads and so has a rough texture. It’s identical to dupion but is lighter weight and more irregular. It’s mostly used for shirts, dresses, and trousers.
A soft, lightweight fabric that has a cotton weave combined with the luster and drape of silk. It’s often used to make blouses and dresses.
Silk Crêpe-Backed Satin
A light- to a medium-weight fabric that is reversible as it has a satin face and a crêpe back. It’s at times made from rayon or polyester instead of silk. Crêpe-backed satin drapes well and is often used for dresses, blouses, and lingerie.
This is a medium-weight fabric that is shiny and dense. The silk softens the crispness of the linen and adds extra sheen. Used mainly for posh suits, skirts, dresses, and trousers.
This satin-weave fabric is woven in different weights and has a smooth, glossy surface on the right side and a dull surface on the wrong side. It’s usually striped and is generally used for dresses, jackets, and eveningwear.
This medium-weight soft fabric combines the softness of wool with the sheen and luster of silk. Mainly used to make posh suits and jackets.
This is a smooth, crisp, plain-weave silk fabric that creases rather easily and makes a rustling sound when worn in motion. Taffeta’s primary uses are for dresses, jackets, bridal and evening wear. This fabric can be a little tricky to sew as you need to handle it as little as possible and it doesn’t ease well. You can also only stitch it once – any removed stitches will leave holes in the fabric.
This is a medium- to heavy-weight silk fabric with a soft, luxurious feel. It’s made with short thread loops that are cut to form a dense pile or nap which lies in one direction. Cheaper velvets are also manufactured from cotton, rayon, and synthetic fibers. The color of velvet can look different depending on which way up the fabric is, so you need to take this into account when cutting out pattern pieces.
This is a light- to a medium-weight fabric that drapes well. It’s been washed in fabric softeners to make it soft and slightly faded in appearance and is used mostly for shirts and dresses.
How to Iron Silk the Right Way?
Silk is a fabric that is known for developing far fewer wrinkles compared to other fabrics. But the moment it does, don’t you freak out (as I did, lest I incurred the wrath of my wife!) a hair dryer, steamer or iron can come in handy to turn your silk wrinkle-free.
Ironing is the best way to remove wrinkles from silk but it needs extra care because it is highly susceptible to damage because of the high heat. Read on below to learn the right way of doing it, and some other tricks of the trade to carry out this task without causing any harm to the silk fabric.
1. Prepare the Fabric
I’m sure you are keen on keeping silk’s texture and integrity. To do that, you must make sure that the fabric is damp when you are ironing. Keep a spray bottle on the ready and you must consider ironing the garment immediately after it’s been hand-washed. Also, DO NOT WRING silk to remove excessive water. In addition, turn the garment inside out while ironing.
You also have to make sure the surface of your iron is clean. If your iron has metal stains, you must eliminate them! You can do this by applying a baking soda solution. Take note: DO NOT IRON if your iron is dirty or have metal stains as it may permanently ruin the silk.
One more thing is to prepare a pure cotton sheet of white or natural color and lay the sheet on the ironing board. This is to keep coloring of the ironing board to leach onto your silk, which may lead to permanent damage to your silk.
2. Concentrate on the Steam, Not the Heat
To iron silk without causing any damage to it, it’s important that you use the lowest heat setting on your iron. A lot of irons actually feature a setting made specifically for silk, which is actually very handy and convenient. Just place the garment flat on the ironing board, put a press cloth on top, and then, starts ironing.
3. Minimize Dragging the Iron Across Silk
When ironing is spoken of, we often think of dragging the iron across the fabric. A crucial tip in ironing silk is to reduce ironing back and forth. When ironing silk, just keep your eyes on key areas of wrinkling. Slowly and carefully press downward through the press cloth. Lift the iron, allow the area to briefly cool, and then do it on another section of fabric. Keep in mind that pressing silk does not mean leaving the iron in place for a long period of time. Lessening the length of time the iron is in contact with the fabric, even with the press cloth on, will keep this delicate fabric from burning.
4. Prevent More Wrinkling
One of the most vital elements of ironing silk is to keep wrinkles from forming before they happen. When ironing, make sure that each area of fabric is laid perfectly flat. Also, make sure that the garment is taut to prevent the formation of new wrinkles. Most people make the mistake of removing the garment from the ironing board before it’s completely cooled. Right before taking your clothing off the board, make sure that it’s cool and dry.
Top Rated and Recommended Silk Bed Sheets
1. ZIMASILK 4 Pcs 100% Mulberry Silk Bed Sheet Set
- 100% Mulberry Silk
- Hypoallergenic, smooth, soft and breathable
- Prevents hair from becoming knotted and matted
The price tag may be a bit steep, but this set is the best deal you’re going to find silk sheets. Not only does this set have a flat sheet, a fitted sheet, and two pillowcases, but they’re 100 percent Mulberry silk, have a 400 thread count, and 19 momme. They’re available in twin, queen, and king and come in a few neutral colors including silver (shown), black, and white.
2. ElleSilk Pure Mulberry Silk Flat Sheet
- Made of Seamless Grade 6A Long Strand 100% Mulberry Silk
- Kind on your skin and hair
- Silk flat sheets help retain heat better than Egyptian cotton or polyester
This single 100 percent mulberry silk sheet features a thread count of 600 and a momme of 22 which means its denser weave better safeguards the luster, sheen, and durability of the silk fibers. It’s hypoallergenic, naturally dyed, and great for wicking away excess moisture for a cooler night sleep. There are a number of color and size options available to suit any bed or decor.
3. THXSILK 19mm Silk Fitted Sheet
- One of the top 10 silk brands in China
- Provides relief from asthma and allergies
- Perfect for hot and cold sleepers
If you’re on a budget, consider this Taihu Snow fitted sheet. It just comes with one piece, but it’s made from 100 percent pure Mulberry silk to make your mattress especially cool and breathable throughout the night. “The life of luxury!” comments one reviewer. “Absolutely the best bed sheet I’ve slept on anywhere on Earth!”
4. Orose 100% Charmeuse Mulberry Silk Bed Sheet
- 100% 19mm naturally hypoallergenic long-fiber silk
- Sewn from the most delicate silk and are seamless
- An ideal option for people who suffer from skin conditions
Because they’re seamless and have deep pockets, this four-piece Orose Charmeuse Mulberry silk sheet set is extremely luxurious and smooth. They’re also handmade to prevent damage to the material, which is why reviewers call them “very soft and very comfortable.” They come in five sizes, multiple colors, and are very simple to care for.