For centuries, silk fabric has been crafted and used in the fashion and textiles industry. Because of the time it takes to create genuine silk, it often comes at a high price and is used for luxury apparel.
So, is silk stretchy? It comes down to the way the silk fibers are woven and whether genuine silk is used, or a substitute such as rayon. With genuine silk fibers, you will have more stretch in the fabric than you would with substitute thread.
There are many other factors such as the weave of the fabric and the way it’s cut that can determine how stretchy your silk fabric is. In this article, we’ll review these variables to help you choose silk that suits your needs.
Genuine Silk Vs Imitation Silk
If you’re searching for the perfect dress to wear to your friend’s wedding, silk is a great choice of fabric. It provides a smooth, shiny look that catches the light and flows beautifully.
With the ongoing evolution of the fashion industry, though, imitation silk fabrics have hit the market. There are now silk fabrics made of rayon instead of true silk fibers. This can alter the feel and appearance of the fabric.
It’s a common misconception that silk only comes from silkworms, thanks to the name. Silk is also naturally produced for weaving nests and cocoons by beetles, hornets, bumble and honey bees, and weaver ants.
Genuine silk fabric is created from these natural silk fibers being woven into fabric. Imitation silk fabric is also woven fibers, usually made from rayon, nylon, or another material.
You can tell the difference through touching the fabric, noting the price point, and examining the lustre of the fabric. Genuine silk should be soft, have a higher price point, and shine in different ways depending on the light.
Real silk threads and fibers are stretchy in their natural state. This provides an already flexible foundation for when those fibers are woven into a length of fabric.
The type of weave, however, will play a role in how stretchy the fabric is. Silk is often woven to become the fabrics we know as chiffon, organza, satin, and crepe. These fabrics tend to not have very much stretch to them, if any at all.
It’s important to note that just because a fabric can be made with silk doesn’t mean it is. Check the label to ensure whether your fabric is made with 100% silk fibers. Silk fabrics that tend to have a more elastic weave are silk jersey, silk charmeuse, and silk cotton.
Like with silk cotton, blending the silk with another fiber can also increase its flexibility. It’s common to weave silk with lycra or spandex to improve stretchability.
Silk Fabric In Action
When using silk fabric to create your own clothing article, it’s important to remember to cut on the bias instead of against the bias. This means cutting on a diagonal angle across the fabric, following the natural woven pattern of the material.
Cutting against the bias, or sometimes referred to as against the grain, can leave that newly-cut piece of fabric in the wrong angle for the natural weave of the fibers to stretch.
Although this is not a guaranteed method to help your silk fabric stretch, it can certainly help you to work with the fabric, rather than against it.
Does Silk Stretch More When Wet?
Yes. Silk fibers weaken as they get wet, and you may find it easier to pull on the fabric and stretch it. Keep in mind that pulling on the fabric in its weakened position could actually tear some of the fibers in the fabric and ruin its integrity.
Since silk tends to stretch and fall weak when submerged in water, it’s best to take your silk garments for dry cleaning rather than using a traditional washing machine.
Is Silk Durable?
Silk is actually a highly durable fabric. Among all-natural fibers (such as cotton or linen), it is the strongest.
Silk tends to be more resistant to wrinkling than other fabrics and can also stand up against the usual wear and tear that might ruin other fabrics.
Can You Embroider Silk?
As silk is often used for bridal gowns, it’s definitely great for embroidery. To make sure it works for your fabric, test a swatch and see how it holds up against your choice of thread and beads.