Silk Dupion, also known as Dupioni Silk, is a popular plain weave raw silk fabric with tiny slubs (raised bumps) on the surface. It is a somewhat-crisp silk which is available in a lot of rich colors – it also has a subtle sheen. It is also thicker than many other silks out there and looks the same from the front and the back.
Dupioni silk is very popular as a wedding gown material and also for making all kinds of clothes. Dupioni silk is a favorite for making occasion wear clothes and everyday pants, skirts, and blouses. It is the perfect weight for all kinds of clothes. When it is decorated with sequins and beads, it is ideal for sewing all kinds of evening wear, including gowns, dresses, and other garments. The fabric is a favorite for sewing occasion-wear frocks for little girls – you can do beautiful embroidery,smocking etc and it looks beautiful against the soft texture of the fabric.
Dupion silk is also a favorite with interior designers. The ambiance of a room can take an instant luxury look if it is decorated with Dupion silk. It is used to make luxurious-looking beautiful cushion covers, bedspreads, placemats, etc
It is a slightly expensive fabric, compared to all other silk fabrics.
In this article I will cover:
Sewing tips for silk dupioni
This textured fabric is ideal for close-fitting structured garments like corsets and jackets. It just needs the right interfacing or backing to give it more stability.
Silk Dupioni cut on the bias has a beautiful drape. Infact dupioni has a good drape cut on the bias or not and many do not prefer to lose this with backing or underlining – but in some cases like making a structured garment you may want to use a backing; you can use flannel for this.
Woven fusible interfacing (textured weft) is preferred with the dupioni fabric as per the book Profesional Sewing Techniques for Designers by Julie Cole and Sharon Czachor.
As a natural fabric, silk dupioni fabric shrinks in the wash – take it into consideration when you cut and sew the fabric.
Which needle to use when sewing silk dupioni – It would help if you also sewed with a thin needle – 10/70 sharp needle is preferred. Other than this, everything about sewing silk dupioni fabric is trouble-free – it sews up like any other woven fabric. As for any silk fabric, you will need to change it into a fresh needle every time you start sewing. This will avoid any mishaps.
A lining or underlining is a good choice when using silk dupioni – it gives structure and strength.
As for machine embroidery – because the fabric is stable enough it can take heavyweight or complex designs. Fusible tricot mesh interfacing is added as a stabilizer on the back of the fabric for doing the embroidery. It can take medium heavy stitch count unlike other thin silks.
The front and back of the fabric looks the same – if that helps in your sewing. But there is a direction in the way the fabric looks (the color/shine) ; so you need to cut the pattern pieces in one direction for it all to look nice and same
If you want a silk fabric that you want to dye in rich colors, this is the fabric for you. It takes colors nicely.
How is Dupioni silk made?
Dupioni silk has a very distinct surface with tiny but detailed slubs on the surface. This is because it is made of raw silk fibers obtained from a special type of cocoons. Slub means a piece of yarn that is thicker than the rest of the yarn.
The silkworm larvae secrete a liquid through spinnerets that become rigid filaments in contact with the air. Sometimes, two larvae in the same pod will wrap their filaments around each other and form the cocoon. The cocoon thus made will have double strands with an uneven appearance. The Dupion or Dupioni silk is made when such uneven rough yarn is used in the weft and the fine yarn is used in the warp. This plain weave fabric is thicker, heavier, and has a greater slub count. The tightly woven lustrous fabric will have a classy buffed look because of the presence of the slub.
The Dupion silk can be woven with two different shades of yarn in warp and weft. This will give the fabric a two-tone effect. The material gives out an iridescent hue from various angles under different lighting.
Usually, dupioni silk is available in a plain design. But Dupion can be woven into plaids and stripes. Floral and other intricate designs are also possible, but they are easier to weave on other plain silks. However, embroidery, lacework, beadwork, etc can be done on Dupion silk. It can be dyed to any shade.
Maintenance of Silk Dupioni fabric
Silk Dupioni is best maintained by dry cleaning it. If you do not want to dry clean, hand wash it with very mild detergent. Do not use strong detergent, bleach, or even fabric softener – unless you want to destroy the surface.
Some common things are same for all silk fabrics; for eg. It wrinkles easily and steam iron can leave water marks. You can read more about caring for silk fabrics here.
A colored dupioni can run in the first wash – so be careful with other clothes. You may want to set the colors with a special wash.