Silk is one of the most finest, shiniest and smoothest fabrics known to man. But not all silks. Raw silk is a 100% pure silk fabric which is somewhat crips and has a nubby texture because of slubs (lumpy, uneven yarns), which are part of its weave. It is available in different weights and textures. China and India are the largest producers of Raw silk.
Different types of raw silk
There are 2 types of raw silks – one is the regular mulberry silk called Silk Noil (noil being the name for the short, broken-fibers). It is made from the the short fibers from fragmented cocoons of the mulberry leaves eating silk caterpillar. This is the softest and finest raw silk.
The other type of raw silk is made from cocoons of other types of moths which eat other leaves than mulberry leaves. This is called Tussah silk (wild silk)
Mulberry raw silk is made from the larvae cocoons that feed on mulberry leaves. Dupioni silk is a raw silk that is much in demand as a wedding dress material. Read more on Silk Dupioni here
Tussah silk or Tussar raw silk is taken from wild silk caterpillars that feed on the leaves of Jamun and oak trees. The silk fibers are usually short because cocoons are collected after the silk caterpillars has chewed its way out of it. It has a rich texture and deep gold color. Tussar raw silk can be dyed to any color.
Eri raw silk is made from the cocoons of silk caterpillars that feed on the leaves of castor plants. The Eri silk is mostly cultivated in the Indian state of Assam and some parts of China and Japan. It has a coarse yet fine texture.
The Muga raw silk is made from the cocoons of the Assam silk moth. They feed on the aromatic leaves of Som and Sualu plants. This silk has a natural gold tint and a shimmery and glossy texture.
Qualities of Raw Silk
The raw silk is made from lustrous fibers taken from fragmented cocoons or waste silk left in a cocoon. It has not been boiled (degummed) to remove the natural gum extruded by the silkworm. The resultant fabric is somewhat crisp but has a good enough drape for making all kinds of clothes. It is a 100% natural fabric with high breathability and comfort.
Raw silk is a very popular fabric among all those who sew because unlike other slippery fabrics it is an easy fabric to sew. It is easy to cut, easy to sew, and has a good drape (especially after washing), good medium-weight and a classy appearance with a subtle luster. It is somewhat opaque, and has the look of linen. And all other good qualities of silk.
Silk filaments from the middle section of the cocoon is used for spinning silk fibers to make silk fabrics – the rest of the filaments are used up for making raw silk. In making of the raw silk, the binding gummy material called sericin is not removed until the yarn or the fabric stage. Afterward, the sericin is removed by boiling the silk with soap and water. The raw silk made by this process is soft and lustrous. It will have a slightly nubby texture. This is the most natural form of silk and can be woven into different fabrics and garments. China is the largest producer of raw silk, followed by India.
Problems with Raw silk
Because of its somewhat loose weave and interesting texture, you would want to hand wash or dry clean as machine washing can destroy the nice texture of the fabric. And do not wring the material to remove water.
The deep rich colors of raw silk can run in the wash – it may lead to fading. You can heat set the colors the first time you wash it – use a hot iron(set to iron heat setting) on it when damp; this will set the colors. Dry as usual afterward
Next problem is its somewhat stiff nature, when you first buy it. But this has a simple solution.
How to make raw silk soft ?
Usually, raw silk has a crisp texture and is a little rough when it is first bought. If you do not like this, you can hand wash the material several times to soften it. You can wash it in slightly warm water with a a pH neutral detergent. This will remove the natural oil and also open up the fibers and make it very soft and pliable.It gets very drapey after washing like this.
Raw silk is somewhat loosely woven and may come apart at the seam line. What I mean is, it can unravel at the stitching line, especially if you are using it for very tight fitting clothes. You can use seam tape to reinforce the seam or use underlining.
Updated on November 24, 2022 by Sarina Tariq