In olden times the price of silk was much greater than now, but the material was much more durable. Silks which have been laid away for a hundred years are still in fairly good condition. At present silks are much cheaper, but the result is that when they are put away, even for only a few months they may fall into bits, and their wearing quality cannot be compared with old silks. The reason for this change is not hard to find. The cost of raw silk is about thirty times that of raw cotton and the waste at least five times that of cotton. The manufacturer must make up in some way if he is to sell silk at the prices demanded by the public.

Silk has a very great ability to absorb dyes and metallic salts without apparently changing the quality of the material, and since dyes and metallic salts are much cheaper than pure silk, the manufacturer makes great use of these materials. Loading is the common name for this process of treating silk, and it is common practice to add 30 per cent of foreign material, just the percentage lost by the silk when the gum is removed, while it is possible to add 250 or even 300 per cent.

When one buys novelties and does not care how short their life is to be, these heavily weighted silks answer the purpose very well, but they are not durable. Practically no silk can be found on the market entirely free from loading, but there is a great difference in the amount present.

* Univ. of III., Bull. 15.

Cornell Reading-Course for the Farm Home, Bull. 45.

Univ. of III., Bull. 15.

Another method of adulterating silk is with cotton and mercerized cotton. The fibers are not spun together here as the cotton and wool, but the threads of the two materials are woven together. In satins, velvets, and brocades the cotton is entirely covered by the silk threads on the surface, and appears as the back of the cloth. In cheap silks a fine cotton thread sometimes forms either warp or filling.

Pongee is a material made from the cocoon of the uncultivated silkworm; rajah, tussah, and other uneven, coarse materials are from the same source. These silks are very strong, but do not have a high luster. Mercerized cotton looks quite silky and is sometimes mixed with these silks, or a material of mercerized cotton and spun silk may be sold for pongee, or even a material entirely of mercerized cotton.

Characteristics and uses of some common silk fabrics.


Very similar to cotton rep. Woven entirely of silk but often padded with wool or cotton. It is used for waists and dresses.


A fabric woven with raised figures on a plain ground. Often a combination of plush and satin weave. It is used for coats and dresses.


A kind of brocade often having wool figures on a silk background. It is used for draperies and upholstering.


Cloth woven with a soft fuzzy face. It is used for curtains.


A thin, transparent silk material with plain weave. It is used for dress trimmings, fancy work, and millinery.

China Silk

A plain woven, light-weight silk. The warp and filling are evenly balanced. This silk may be obtained in any color. It is used for gowns, waists, and underclothing.

Crepe De Chine

A soft lustrous silk woven with tightly twisted threads. The threads are so twisted and woven as to make a crepe. It may be obtained in printed designs or plain. It is used for dresses, waists, and undergarments.


A plain silk cloth, very soft and highly finished. This silk wears excellently. It is used for dresses.

India Silk

Very similar to China silk. Originally woven in India.

Japanese Silk

Similar to China and India silk.

Jersey Cloth

This material is a soft knitted fabric in plain colors. It is used for dresses, suits, and gloves.


Crdpe de meteor is similar to crepe de chine in texture. Its face is more satiny. It is used for waists and dresses.


A waved or watered effect produced on plain or ribbed silk. It is used for dresses, trimmings, and linings.


A name applied to velvets when the pile is pressed down giving a high luster. It is used for coats, evening dresses, and millinery.

Peau De Soie

A heavy, soft-finished silk material. It is so woven that fine close ribs may be seen running with the filling. Better grades are the same on both sides. It is used for dresses and coats.


Long-piled fabric resembling velvet. It is used for wraps and dresses.


A soft plain unbleached washable silk. It is used for waists, dresses, and coats.


A ribbed material resembling cotton poplin. It is used for dresses, waists, and suits.


An open, plain, rather stiff silk resembling cotton mull. It is used for hat linings.

Satin - A silk material with a very high finish caused by the floating of silk threads over the surface. There are many qualities and variations of this material. It is used for dresses, linings, and trimmings.


Taffeta is either plain or woven in lines so fine as to appear perfectly plain. It may be obtained in a great number of ornamental patterns such as fancy cords, plaids, and stripes, both printed and woven. It is used for dresses, suits, and trimmings.


Openwork silk net. It is used for draperies and evening dresses.


Material so woven that the surface is covered with projecting fibers. The better qualities are made entirely of silk. It is used for dresses, coats, and suits.


A material woven in imitation of velvet, but made wholly of cotton. It is used for dresses and suits.