All about Silk: A Fabric Dictionary Swatchbook


This practical guide to silk explains fabrics and fibers from the consumer's point of view, written in plain English instead of confusing technical jargon. With this book as your guide, you'll be able to identify the main types of silk without asking sales clerks or reading labels. You'll learn how to use each fabric, how to recognize quality and how to spot a bargain.

A brief introduction covers the history of silk, the main sources of silk and the silk textile industry, ...

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This practical guide to silk explains fabrics and fibers from the consumer's point of view, written in plain English instead of confusing technical jargon. With this book as your guide, you'll be able to identify the main types of silk without asking sales clerks or reading labels. You'll learn how to use each fabric, how to recognize quality and how to spot a bargain.

A brief introduction covers the history of silk, the main sources of silk and the silk textile industry, followed by detailed, two-page descriptions of the main fabric types, each illustrated with simple black-and-white drawings and a 2-1/2" x 4" cloth sample, right there on the same page. In the back of the book, space is provided for the reader to collect additional fabric samples and record personal notes, followed by a list of mail-order sources, glossary, bibliography and index.

The 32 fabric samples are packaged separately, layered in the same order as they appear in the book. It takes only a few minutes to mount the samples to the book's pages, using double-stick tape or a small spot of glue. Instructions are included. Samples include: batiste de soie, broadcloth, brocade, charmeuse, chiffon, China silk, cloqué, crepe, crepe de Chine, douppioni, faille, gabardine, georgette, habutai, jacquard, knit, matelassé, matka, noil, organza, peau de soie, pongee, printed silk, sandwashed silk, shantung, suiting, surah, taffeta, Thai silk, tussah silk, tweed, velvet.

All About Silk provides quick answers to hundreds of questions about an often confusing subject. Terms such as cultivated silk, wild silk, raw silk and spun silk are clearly explained. If you love silk, you simply shouldn't be without this book.

About the Author:

Julie Parker is a former newspaper editor turned fabric junkie. She holds a bachelor of arts degree in communications from the University of Washington in Seattle and a second bachelor's degree in apparel design from Western Washington University in Bellingham. She was a newspaper editor for 10 years before returning to school to study clothing design. She is the author of three books and recently worked with the Wool Bureau in New York to write a guide to wool fabrics that was distributed to members of the garment industry throughout North America. She lives in Seattle.

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Editorial Reviews

Ann Price
Information on silk's history, the silk industry and silk's allure and limitations are included along with some details about the Bombyx mori (silk moth) a creature whose behavior makes it as singular as the fabrics made from its cocoons. The 32 swatches give you a chance for hands-on evaluation of the various silk types before seeking one for your next silk creation. Accompanying each swatch is a checklist covering more than 100 aspects of the fabric, including its care, uses, price range, wearability, suggested styles and the ease or difficulty of working with the fabric....A readable and enjoyable exploration from the "soft-as-down" habutai to the slubs and texture of douppioni.
Sew News
David Page Coffin
A new concept in sewing books is not easy to come by, but Julie Parker has one, and it's a winner. Her All About Silk includes real samples of 32 different silk fabrics, which clarifies in the most obvious way what a matelasse or a peau de soie actually looks and feels like. Each mounted swatch is 2-1/2 by 4 in., and comes with a full-page checklist explaining its qualities from the sewer's point of view. Mail-order silk sources and a host of silk facts are included. Great idea!
Fascinating information about commercial silk fabrics accompanies the 32 swatches in this handy reference, and tips for sewing and care are included with each swatch. Written to help the home sewer judge fabric before buying, this book should also be useful to anyone weaving or printing on silk.
Julie Berner
This thorough and well-organized handbook will prove valuable to anyone working with silk, whether focusing on clothing design or construction.
Northwest Fiber Network
Madelyn van der Hoogt
Though written primarily for sewers, a weaver's knowledge is much enriched by the contents of these books....Julie Parker's background is in editing and she puts her skills to good use in making the text absolutely clear. If you've ever felt a little overwhelmed in a good fabric store, these books are for you.
Teri Hales
Unlike many textile books, All About Silk is understandable and not at all dry. The attractive clarity of the book should win an award for clarity and ease of use.
Sewer's Source Letter
Vogue Patterns
At last there are two resource books available to the home sewer that provide everything you need to know about cotton and silk. Easy to use and a pleasure just to leaf through, these two books are definitely worthy of being included in your home library.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780963761200
  • Publisher: Rain City Publishing
  • Publication date: 12/1/1992
  • Series: Fabric Reference Series
  • Edition description: Spiral
  • Pages: 92
  • Sales rank: 413,682
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 11.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Read an Excerpt

I wrote this book because I wanted to know what I was looking at when I went to the fabric store. I have been sewing for more than 20 years, but until recently, fabric made no more sense to me than it did when I made my first dress back in the sixth grade.

A trip to the fabric store was inspiring and confusing. Colors and textures caught my eye, but I knew little about the different types of fabrics and their characteristics.

I was familiar with terms like twill, tissue faille and crepe, but I didn't know what they meant. I didn't understand the distinction between crepe chiffon and chiffon taffeta. I thought organdy and organza were the same thing. I thought damask and jacquard were different.

When I began to ask questions, I didn't get satisfactory answers. I got more confused. And I discovered that many other people who work with fabric don't know any more about it than I did.

I consulted sewing and textile books, and quickly discovered that some fabrics have three or four names, some terms describe three or four fabrics, and some terms have three or four spellings. It's normal to be confused.

I was overwhelmed by vague and conflicting descriptions and industry jargon. Textile dictionaries are quite technical: They speak of picks and ends, bilateral fibers, warp beams, eight-harness looms, weft yarns, calendering, gassing, singeing and face-finished goods.

None of that makes much sense to me. What I want to know is how each fabric looks, feels and behaves, how to use it and how to care for it. I want to know how much I can expect to pay for it and where to buy it. When I pay $30 a yard for three yards of silk, I want to make that purchase with confidence in my ability to choose the right fabric for my project.

Those who lack confidence in their fabric-selecting skills are advised to stick to the list of fabrics suggested on the back of most pattern envelopes.

This is not as easy as it sounds, for two reasons:

The lists usually include confusing, oversimplified or vague terminology.

Even when the information is clear, it is not very useful, because fabric stores seldom use such terms to label their products.

Most fabric labels include the fiber content, the price and, in many cases, a recommended method of care. Some stores routinely provide additional information about the weave, the country of origin, the fabric's weight and so forth, while others make no effort to do so.

This is not a conspiracy to keep customers in the dark. Many stores do not identify fabric types because they simply don't know what they are.

For starters, only a few fabric types can be easily identified and accurately labeled. Descriptions of similar types of fabrics often overlap; distinctions are not clear and usually represent someone's preference or opinion rather than fact. You might call a fabric "damask," while I prefer to call it "jacquard." We would both be right.

That's because there are no hard and fast rules about defining fabric. The textile industry is creative and competitive, driven by consumer demands for fashion and function. Weaves, fibers, dyes and finishes can be mixed together in a mind-boggling number of combinations. As fabrics evolve, definitions change.

Adding to the confusion is the natural desire of textile mills and garment manufacturers to market their products by suggesting an air of distinction, novelty or exclusivity. The easiest way to do this is to give the product a catchy name. And almost anything goes, as long as the manufacturer gives equal time to the fabric's fiber content.

The catchy name may refer to the fiber, the weave, the finish or the garment itself, resulting in a jumble of confusing terms. A number of very different items often wind up bearing similar names, even when they have nothing in common. The confusion is compounded when an item becomes popular enough to receive media attention. Constant use of a catchy marketing term often creates the impression that the name refers to a standard type of fabric with clearly defined characteristics, when it does not.

Finally, some fabrics don't have assigned names. Mills frequently use numbers, rather than names, because it is easier to keep track of fabric No. 3754 than "lightweight silk crepe with jacquard figures." When one of these numbered fabrics is described in terms of fabric types, it is based on the expertise and opinion of the person giving the description, rather than an industry standard for the fabric.

In spite of this, some fabrics are easily defined. It's not difficult at all to conjure up an image of corduroy, velvet, denim or canvas. Most people can visualize a terry cloth bathrobe and an oxford shirt.

These are what the textile industry calls staple fabrics. Staple fabrics have steady sales over an extended period of time. They are produced in response to a large and continuous demand, they have been around for years and they aren't going to disappear in the near future.

Novelty fabrics are variations of staple fabrics. They usually resemble certain fabrics, even if they aren't exactly the same. So while it is next to impossible to accurately define all fabrics, it is easy to describe staple fabrics and to apply that knowledge to everything else. That's where this book fits in.

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Table of Contents

Silk history
32 silk fabrics (definitions and swatches): batiste de soie, broadcloth, brocade, charmeuse, chiffon, China silk, cloque, crepe, crepe de Chine, douppioni, four-ply silk, gabardine, georgette, habutai, jacquard, knit, matel asse, matka, noil, organza, peau de soie, pongee, printed silk, sandwashed silk, shantung, suiting, surah, taffeta, Thai silk, tussah silk, tweed, velvet
Types of silk: cultivated silk, spun silk, weighted silk, douppioni silk, pure silk, raw silk, wild silk
World of silk: China, France, Japan, Italy India, Thailand
Care of silk
Silk characteristics
Types of weaves: plain, rib, satin, twill, jacquard, knit, double cloth, basket weave, figure weaves, net fabrics, broken twill, handwoven fabrics, pile fabrics. Types of yarn: spun yarns, single yarns, crepe yarns, twisted yarns, slubbed yarns, ply yarns, blended yarns
Special effects: embossed fabrics, crepe fabrics, sheer fabrics, padding, embellished fabrics, shot silk, moire patterns
Mail-order sources
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