Wrap Fibre Focus: Silk

Wraps are available in a wide variety of fibres and fibre combinations. With so many combinations available, it can be tough to know which wrap will best suit your needs. In this series I’ll be taking an in-depth look at a particular fibre, concentrating on the qualities it contributes to wrapping.

Silk

Silk is a natural protein fibre. It is produced by many insects, but the silk used in textile manufacturing is almost solely that of moth caterpillars. Silk fabric has been produced since ancient times in Asia and Europe; the earliest known examples date from China circa 3500 BC.

Wild silk, which includes Tussah silk, is produced from cocoons gathered in the wild which have usually already had the pupa emerge from them. As the pupa emerges from the cocoons the silk is torn into shorter lengths, thus labour-intensive carding is required to produce silk suitable for textiles.

Non-wild (commercial) silk is produced from the cocoons of the silkworm pupae, specially bred to produce a smoother, whiter silk with no mineral deposits on the surface. The pupae are killed before they have a chance to emerge from the cocoons, thus enabling the cocoons to be unravelled into long, thick continuous strands.

The largest manufacturers of silk continue to be in Asia; China and India dominate the modern silk market.

Silk in Baby Carriers

Didymos Anthracite Tussah Silk Lilies

Didymos Anthracite Tussah Silk Lilies

Silk is used in ring slings and wraps, typically as a blend, although there are a very few 100% silk wraps available on the market. Sakura Bloom in particular has a large, popular selection of silk ring slings. Silk has a beautiful, lustrous sheen, making a silk ring sling the elegant and perfect choice for a formal occasion.

Silk’s Wrapping Qualities

Silk is one of the strongest natural fibres, and is very supportive, even in a thin wrap (certain thin silk-blend wraps are described as being more suitable for newborns primarily due to their particular blend or weave; thin silk wraps suitable for carrying toddlers and beyond include Didymos Tussah India and Oscha Shui Long Celandine). Unlike linen, however, silk loses up to 20% of its strength when wet. It also has poor elasticity, and is weakened if exposed to too much sunlight.

Silk is suitable for both warm and cool weather wrapping. It wisks moisture, keeping one comfortable in warm weather, while its low conductivity keeps warm air circulating close to the skin in cool weather.

Due to its poor elasticity, silk lacks the stretch and bounce of a fibre like wool.

Care of Silk

Silk is best washed by hand; however, you are unlikely to encounter problems if using the silk or hand wash setting of a front-loading washing machine. It is best to use a silk-specific detergent. When wet, silk should be gently pulled into shape and line-dried out of direct sunlight (many people line-dry silk indoors). Silk should be ironed on low temperatures only.

About Rachel Susoeff

I am a British ex-pat currently residing in San Jose, CA, with my husband Alex, April 2012 baby Anya, and two cats. I was interested in wraps long before Anya was born and retain an inordinate amount of wrap facts and information in my head that I’ve been attempting to express in writing! My contribution to the site mainly comes in the form of FAQs, guides, and back-end management. My strengths lie in answering other people's questions and giving wrap advice.
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