How to pick a good silk duvet online? (Part I)

Last Wednesday at work, Sandy asked me to recommend a silk duvet for her. Being friends with her for 5 years, I know a recommendation can hardly satisfy all she needs, so I decided to write this weeks entry on silk duvets partly because Im too lazy to think of another topic, partly because well, I dont want to be bombarded with questions at weird hours during the day which seems to be her specialty.

So, lets say you want to buy a silk duvet (or comforter as it is known in the US). You go to a local bedding store and the price tag makes you gasp and hurry out the door. You go to Costco and sometimes you find a silk duvet on a roadshow there however, after doing some research you realize the duvets Costco sells are basically the same as the ones sold in some online stores and its much cheaper to buy online instead.

Buying online has its own problems though you never know what you are going to get because you cant inspect the goods beforehand. In this entry I will help you with deciding which store is more trustworthy, as well as how to make sure the duvets you get are made with authentic Mulberry silk.

1. Pricing

Raw Mulberry silk price has been on a steady increase for about 10 months now, so newly made duvets tend to be more expensive than older duvets. Certain vendors keep a good stock of silk duvets since they are resistant to bacteria, mold and most other harmful insects, and this further reduces prices. Of course, the older the silk filling, the less effective it gets in terms of temperature regulation, and the higher the chance that harmful substances accumulate within.

Then there are also vendors that DO NOT use long-stranded Mulberry silk at all but advertise as such. Grade B Mulberry (short-stranded) and Tussah silk (broken silk) can also be used to make silk filling. However, due to very short fibre length, fillings made with these silk do not have the mesh-like structure present in long-fibre fillings, and are significantly less effective in terms of keeping warm. One needs to be aware of these silk duvets they are certainly not going to be very helpful if you are expecting a harsh winter ahead.

Here are some numbers to help you get a rough idea of the price you should expect a decent duvet to have:
Grade A Mulberry silk filling currently are around ¥400-450 RMB (CAD $85)/500g. A lightweight summer duvet contains 0.8-1kg filling, so the filling alone would cost around CAD $140-170. Winter duvet filling weights can double, costing $280-$340 alone.
Depending on the size of the duvet and the material of the casing, the casing itself may cost from around $100 CAD (standard 300 TCI cotton) to up to CAD $250-$300 range (25 momme silk).
Shipping: There is no such thing as free shipping. Vendors who advertise free shipping are really putting the shipping cost in the price, so duvets with faster shipping are often priced higher. Shipping costs may vary a lot so I wont bother to post numbers here.

To conclude:
If you are looking for a duvet to help you through the winter (or summer), its price tag should be your first filter. (Although, Ill have to admit, pricing and customer reviews are probably the only two ways you CAN filter out bad silk before actually making a purchase.)

2. Labels

100% Grade A Mulberry silk filling WILL be labeled as such if the vendor is not stupid. Obviously not all such labeling mean the silk is genuine, but if your duvet does not come with such a label, and instead is tagged with 100% Pure Silk 100% Natural Silk Grade 1 Mulberry silk, etc, you can almost be certain that the duvet is made with second-class silk.

3. Casing
While the filling does all the hard work, the casing of a duvet is also a very important and can affect your experience with the duvet significantly. Cotton shell is generally recommended for a good balance between price and quality, while silk (Charmeuse, Habotai, Satin) casing offers the best synergy with the silk fililng. If the vendor does not specify the casings material, MAKE SURE YOU ASK BEFORE BUYING! Polyester casings are mostly advertised as Satin. Unfortunately,while they are cheap, synthetic fibres are horrible and negate much of silk fillings benefits.

4. Inspection Zipper
When you purchase a silk duvet, one of the most important method to verify the filling inside is through a side opening. Vendors who are confident about the filling will leave an opening of at least 25cm on one side of the duvet so that customers can open and thoroughly inspect the entire filling. When you first receive your silk duvet, make sure you inspect the silk at least once, by opening the side slit to its maximum capacity, and check all four corners as well as the center of the duvet, as some vendors may use second-grade or even worse, synthetic fibres for parts of the filling.

5. Silk
When you have done all of the above and obtained satisfactory results, chances are you have already purchased a decent silk duvet and its almost time to enjoy. Unfortunately, recently there have been reports of certain manufacturers mixing real long strand Mulberry silk with synthetic fibres. This is generally difficult to detect for the naked eye, but there is a quick way to see if your duvet contains a large amount of polyester fibres. I call it the shredded paper test.

The test uses the fact that natural fibres, on general, generate less static than synthetic fibres. What you need to prepare for this test is some shredded paper with width around 0.3-0.8cm. The procedure is extremely simple: open the side zipper and rub the filling quickly at the opening for around 50-60 seconds, then place the filling near the shredded paper scraps. If the filling contains a significant percentage of synthetic fibers, you will notice that the paper scraps will be quickly attracted to (almost flying into) the filling. Pure silk filling, on the other hand, does not attract paper scraps with nearly the same intensity.

Another way to test silk is through the Burn Test, which I have written about in an earlier entry. Its late so I dont wanna go find it.

Its almost 2am here and I feel like Im only half way done, so I guess thats it for tonight. Ill see if I can squeeze some time out next week and finish this.

Good night!

Silk Comforter Buying Tips

Before you dash out to a store and buy a silk comforter take a few moments to read these buying tips to ensure you are purchasing the silk comforter that is right for you.

Here are some things to consider and look for.

Filling

Buy the best filling you can afford. If your pocketbook can afford it, go for a silk comforter with 100 percent mulberry filling. It is the most durable and the highest quality because mulberry silk comes from silkworms raised in captivity under exacting conditions designed to produce the best silk possible. Comforters with Habutai and Tussah silk will be less expensive but the quality will not be quite as high either.

Silk Fill Weight

Most silk comforter manufacturers have at least two weights of comforters available; one that is more suitable for summer use and a heavier one more suitable for cooler weather. In climates where the weather gets extremely cold it is suggested to use the summer weight and heavier weight comforter together to ensure you will be comfy and cozy no matter what the weather is. However, some silk comforter manufacturers do offer an extra warm silk comforter for extremely cold weather use.

As a general rule, summer weight comforters are 4 -5 pounds; fall weight are 6-10 pounds; and anything 11 pounds or over is for winter weather.

Dont Forget a Duvet Cover

A silk filled comforter should always be encased in a removable duvet cover that can be laundered regularly. The covers are available in a vast array of materials from different weaves and grades of silk to ones made of organic cotton to a combination of materials. The choice is up to you, but I recommend a silk cover for the silk comforter. Why skimp on the cover? But if the silk comforter you are buying is for a child, opt for a cotton cover because it is going to stand up to the wear and tear a child will subject it too better than a silk duvet cover will.

What Your Mummy Didnt Tell You

Silk is measured by its weight, its “momme” (pronounced “mummy”) weight. The higher the momme weight the heavier the silk and the more durable it is. While you should look for sheets with a momme weight of 12-19, look for a duvet cover that is on the high end of that range or even in the 20s. It will be more durable.

Seam or No Seam On the Cover

If you are purchasing a 100 percent silk duvet cover, seams arent necessarily a bad thing. Much of the silk made is only 45 inches wide so it makes sense that a silk duvet cover is going to have to have a seam or two somewhere. Seamless duvet covers can be purchased but the wider silk is more expensive so expect to pay a premium for it. Be wary of “too good to be true” prices on any seamless silk bedding. Its probably not a pure silk product.

If you do purchase bedding with a seam, there will either be a seam down the middle or two off center seams that are closer to the side edges. If you sleep alone and sleep in the middle of your bed choose bedding with off center side seams so you are not laying on or directly covered with a seam. If you or if you and your significant other sleep on either side of the bed, opt for the seam n the middle.

Where to Buy

Will you find a quality silk comforter at your local discount store? It is highly unlikely. How about at your local department store? Its not likely you will find it there either unless it is a high end department store. You are likely to find the highest quality and best price by ordering online, by mail, or via the telephone. Why is that? High quality silk bedding is typically made to order and not mass produced and stocked on shelves or in warehouses somewhere

When purchasing any silk bedding, you get what you pay for. Huge discounts and slashed prices on quality silk bedding are not a common occurrence and often only occur when a certain color or style is being discontinued. If you want to bargain shop, go the flea market and haggle over the price of a throw rug or beaded necklace.