Silk Terms Defined

When you enter the world of silk and silk bedding it seems like there is a never ending list of new words to understand. This list of terms and what they mean will help you wade through the sea of words and help you choose the silk that is right for you.

Momme Weight – this refers to the weight of a piece of silk fabric and in a standard measurement for silk. Momme weight calculates the weight of a piece of silk that is a standard 100 yards long and 45 inches wide. The weight of the piece of fabric that size is its momme weight. A piece of silk weighing 12 pounds has a momme weight of 12. When purchasing silk bedding look for a momme weight of 12 or higher.

Cultivated Silk – silk that is harvested from worms raised in captivity. Cultivated silk is the highest quality silk because great care is taken to ensure the silk filament threads harvested are not broken resulting in long and durable silk thread that is very strong – the strongest natural fiber in the world.

Mulberry Silk – the highest quality silk available. It comes from silkworms produced from the Bombyx mori moth. The silkworms are fed an exclusive diet of mulberry leaves. The resulting silk that is harvested is of a uniform light color, is rounder than wild silk, more uniform in size than wild silk, and finer than wild silk.

Wild Silk – silk harvested from silkworms that grow in the wild and eat a diet of whatever plant food is available to them. The natural color of wild silk ranges from a light ivory to a darker tan. It is less expensive than cultivated silk and not as durable. Although it is a good choice for many applications it is not the best choice for silk bedding because it is not as durable as cultivated silk.

Tussah Silk – a type of wild silk that typically comes from India or China with the India silk typically having more luster to it.

Thrown or Reeled Silk – a process done by hand to unwind the silk filaments from the cocoon. Most thrown or reeled silk is cultivated silk.

Spun or Cut Silk – silk with shorter fibers, often ones taken from the inside portion of the cocoon which is considered the weak part. It is generally rougher to the touch than thrown/reeled silk and has less elasticity. It is also typically made from the silk filament threads of wild silk.

Noil – typically called “raw silk” although it is not really raw silk. It is a weak type of silk made from waste silk and does not wear well but it does take to dye well. It not suitable for silk bedding.

Charmeuse – a type of silk that can be either satin charmeuse or crepe charmeus depending on how it is woven. It drapes well and has a nice luster to it. It is a popular choice for silk bedding.

Duppoini Silk – it is fairly coarse to the touch but is strong and lustrous. Its coarseness does not make a good choice for silk sheets but its interesting texture makes it a popular choice for duvet covers and draperies.

Habotai Silk – also called china silk. It is a lower quality silk and although it is widely available in silk bedding it is not as durable as mulberry silk but is much more affordable.

Silk Velvet – pure silk velvet is very expensive (close to $1,000 a yard) and not widely available. Most silk velvet today is a blend of silk and rayon.

Satin – a confusing term at best. Technically “satin” refers to the weave of a fabric and not to the fabric itself. But satin is a term often use to define a smooth shiny fabric made of acetate, polyester and rayon. “Satin silk” is an ultra-luxurious silk.

If you are looking for the best quality silk bedding, choose products made with mulberry or cultivated silk and with a momme weight of at least 12. If you are looking for a more affordable option, Habotai and Charmeuse are popular.