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The 5000 Year Story Behind Silk Ties, Scarves & Shawls

When we think of silk, we often picture colorful blouses, flowing dresses and lingerie. If you like the finer things in life, you might own silk pajamas, pants and coats. Silk ties and scarves are also very common items found in peoples’ wardrobes.

Monsoon produced custom silk scarves for the Royal Ontario Museum.The Long & Luxurious History of Silk Ties, Shawls & More

Silk has made such a big impression on today’s society that we often make reference to it in our everyday conversations, such as “her skin is silky smooth”. But silk has a very long and illustrious history. For 5000 years, silk has been used and revered by many different cultures. At one point in time, only royalty could afford to wear it and there was even a time it was traded for its weight in gold! First produced in China and traveling throughout Asia, the Middle East and Europe, silk has had an enormous impact on cultures around the world; yet many people today still don’t know how it is made.

There are several varieties of silk, most of which we are unaware of but still enjoy. The silk we know and wear is most often produced by the Silk Moth caterpillar. This caterpillar, in the larval stage, wraps itself in a cocoon to prepare for its transformation into a full-grown moth. Before the caterpillar can fully transform, silk cultivators stop the development process so that the alkali these insects produce stops. Alkali ruins the quality of the silk, so it is important to access the cocoon before it is secreted. The silk thread is then extracted from the cocoon by machine and when enough threads from different cocoons are combined, raw silk yarn is obtained.

Raw Silk from Domesticated Silk Worms, used to make our silk ties, scarves and shawls.
Raw Silk (Armin Kübelbeck, 2007)

How Do You Like Your Silk Scarves, Blouses or Dresses?

 

When the raw silk yarn has been cleaned, it can be woven into many different types of silk, such as Crepe de Chine, Chiffon, Aerophane, Fagara, Bengaline or Tussah. Aerophane and Crepe de Chine are a kind of silk gauze. Many scarves, ties and shawls are made of this type of silk. Chiffon has been tightly twisted when processed so that it retains a stretch. Many blouses and lingerie are made from this. Fagara and Bengaline silk are matte on one side and shiny on the other, though Bengaline is heavier. You will find most of this type of silk in women’s dresses and linings. Tussah is a coarser silk that is most often used for heavy coats and furnishings, such as drapes.

Do you own silk scarves, ties, blouses, window drapes or some lingerie? Take the time to feel the material. Is it ‘silky smooth’, or does it have a rougher edge to it? Is only one side shiny? Is it thick or crepe-like? These are all examples of the different ways silk can be processed and enjoyed.

Monsoon uses the best silk to create custom silk ties or scarves for corporate gifts – for details, contact us.