Historically, silk was often used for rich tapestries and royal garments. During the Renaissance, the processing of silk was incredibly secretive and many countries were competing to find better, faster ways of throwing and twisting the threads (although Italy maintained a monopoly on the craft for many centuries). Even Leonardo Da Vinci was in on the action! Despite the progress in Europe, silk production began and has come full circle in China. It was there that the usability of silk thread was discovered and it is there that silk is in greatest supply today.
It is quite natural to associate silk with luxury. It may surprise some people to understand that such a rich product is initiated by a worm and a moth, producers of silk fiber. The moth lays eggs, they hatch into worms, who then spin a cocoon of silk around themselves to provide coverage while they mature and transform into moths themselves. Spun in a continuous strand, an unraveled cocoon can reach lengths of up to 3,000 feet.1 (That’s more than half a mile!) These silk cocoons are harvested and processed to create the material that will be spun into silk thread and yarn.
When considering quantities, it is easy to see why silk is so valuable and expensive. Think of the math here. Hundreds and hundreds of silk worm cocoons are needed for a skein of yarn. Now you can understand the luxury! Whereas one sheep fleece can produce many skeins or balls of yarn from one shearing, the same is obviously not true for one silk worm.
Silk fibers are long and incredibly strong. They have a beautiful finish and shine to them which make garments knitted with silk yarn look very elegant. They are fiber supermodels! Silk fibers hold dye well and have mild elasticity. As with most opulent materials, silk must be cleaned carefully. Many silk garments call for dry-cleaning only. Knit Picks yarn containing silk can be hand washed.
Lucky for you, we have incorporated a dash of silk into our yarn recipes from the very fine to the big and bulky. Available in bare roving, lace, fingering and DK weights, the Gloss yarn line combines Merino wool with silk for a light, yet warm and cozy yarn. Aloft is a unique blend of super kid mohair and silk, ideal for creating light-as-a-feather scarves, shawls and garments. For projects that need an extra-luxe touch, turn to Diadem Fingering - an elegant and indulgant blend of baby alpaca and mulberry silk.
1Irwin, Bobbie. The Spinner’s Companion. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, 2001. p28.