Silk Vs. Satin

An overview of the differences between satin and silk, including the distinction between the two based on fiber and weave, their production processes, characteristics, uses, and more.

When you want a soft and smooth fabric that has a deep luster you go to the fabric store and they will most probably give you a choice between ‘Satin or Silk’. For the uninitiated, both seem (look and feel) the same. Sometimes they are the same but sometimes they are not. So what is Silk, What is Satin? And what is Silk-satin fabric?

satin vs silk

Similarities & Differences: Silk – Satin

Fiber Source
Natural protein fiber from silkwormsCan be of any fiber. Satin is the weave pattern or fabric made of any type of fiber in this pattern. Often made of polyester, acetate, or silk.

TextureSmooth, soft, and lustrous; some may be crispy; some sheer.Smooth, glossy, and shiny
Natural sheen and luster; elegant shine.
High sheen.
DurabilityStrong and durableSome satins may not be durable or strong
ComfortBreathable and comfortableMay trap heat, less breathable
Insulation Properties
Good insulator, warm in winterLess insulating.
Moisture Wicking
AbsorbentWhen made of synthetic fibers, not absorbent.
Care and MaintenanceDelicate; Maybe marked dry cleanMay be marked delicate; Snags on the fabric surface
Use of fabricSpecial occassion wear, lounge wearLingerie, bedding, Evening wear, accessories
Environmental ImpactNatural fabric with lesser impactIf synthetic, made with chemical processes.
CostExpensiveIf synthetic, not expensive.
Comparison chart of silk vs satin
satin fabric

The basic difference between the terms ‘satin’ and ‘silk’ is that silk refers to a fiber whereas ‘satin’ refers to a particular type of weave of the fabric (how the fibers are arranged within the structure of the fabric).

Satin is a very common weave in fabric manufacturing. A satin weave uses shiny long multi-filament yarns with a very low twist to produce a lustrous finish. In this particular weave, four or more warp threads go over one weft thread or the opposite. Satin weaves can be different types – four harness satin weave, five harness satin weave, or eight harness satin weave.

The Satin made of silk yarns is called Silk satin. Silk satin is medium weight silk – it has great drape and is very popular as a dressmaking fabric especially for making wedding gowns.

Other differences between satin and silk are as follow:

  • Silk fabric is made of natural fibers obtained mostly from silkworms. But satin fabric can be made of natural as well as synthetic fibers. Other than silk, fibers made of acetate, cotton, polyester, rayon, etc can be used for satin weave.
  • Silk is a centuries old fabric made in many weights and weaves – plain, twill and not just satin weaves. 
  • The most lustrous are satin made of rayon, acetate, silk and polyester. Silk satin has the best shine.
  • All fabrics made of satin weave have a front and a back. The front side will be shiny whereas the backside will be dull. Silk fabrics are the same on the front and back.
  • Satin weave is possible with only long filament yarns. That’s why silk and other man-made filaments like polyester, nylon, and rayon are best suited for satin weave. Silk is made with all kinds of yarns – long and short yarns.
  • Satin fabric has a smooth surface throughout (unless you count the small fibers that prop up which are very rare); But not all silks have a smooth surface. Some silks like Tusser silk are made of slubbed yarns which result in irregular ribs on the surface. Some handwoven silks can have uneven surfaces because of the nature of fibers used as well as the hand weaving method.
  • Though satin has a glossy appearance, it does not shimmer like silk.
  • Satin has a beautiful drape and is less prone to wrinkles, especially the thicker varieties. Not all silks have good drape. Some silks are crisp.
  • Satin fabric which is made of synthetic fibers is not breathable like silk.
  • Satin is less expensive than silk, and therefore, is widely used in making clothes, especially occasion wear dressy clothes like evening gowns and wedding dresses. It is also used in upholstery, bed sheets, and other fashion accessories. Silk is high quality but it comes with a premium price.
  • Satin fabric is prone to snag. The floating fibers can be caught in different places during wear and this can mar the smooth surface of satin. Silk fibers are quite strong; Plain weave and twill weave silk fabrics not as prone to snagging.
  • Silk can be easily dyed into brilliant colors. Cotton satin is also easy to dye but polyester satin is not easy to dye.

There are so many different types of silk fabrics – you can check out the names of these silk fabrics here.

There are different varieties for satin too -like charmeuse satin, baronet satin, crepe satin, duchess satin, poly-satin and messalin satin. The quality varies depending on the types of yarns used, the twist of the yarns, etc.

Sateen is a kind of satin woven with 100% cotton fibers. It’s lustrous on one side and is very soft. Cotton satin/sateen is more durable than other types and hence is commonly used in bedding and clothing

Related posts : How is silk made ; Satin fabric.

Which silk looks the most like a satin?

Silk Charmeuse is a satin silk fabric with high gloss. It is also called Crepe Back Silk Satin. One side is crepe and the other side super shiny.

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.