Say 'silk' five times...
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Q: What do cows drink?
A: Cows drink water. If you said "milk," perhaps you're a little tired and might need to take a nap...
If you said "water" then congratulations, you can now enjoy the rest of the article stress-free!
SILK BEDDING EXPLAINED
Silk has been in widespread demand for as long as it has been available. It’s smooth and soft texture makes it a desirable option for clothing and bedding. However, the hefty price tag attached to genuine silk products make most people question whether silk bedding is worth the cost.
We’ve summarised everything you need to know about silk to see how it really compares to other bedding fabric options.
Silk Bedding KEY QUESTIONS AND INFORMATION
- What is the history of silk?
- How many types of silk are there?
- How is silk bedding made?
- What are the benefits of silk bedding?
- How do you wash and care for silk bedding?
- Is silk bedding good for the environment?
- Is silk bedding Vegan-Friendly?
- How many types of silk are there?
- What is the best silk bedding alternative?
WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF SILK
Silk is an ancient fabric first recorded in China dating back to 3000-4000 BC. The famously soft and luxurious fabric quickly became an object of interest for royalty and traders across the globe which sparked the creation of merchant silk routes that have had a lasting impact on the many places they touched.
As silk production spread across the globe, so did the demand for its use for clothing, upholstery and bedding. To keep up with silk production, humans domesticated the Bombyx Mori larva to the extent that it can’t now survive independently.
HOW MANY TYPES OF SILK ARE THERE?
You might be surprised to find out that there are actually many different types of silk to choose from with only a few varieties suitable for bedding. They differ depending on which worm was used to create it, how it was twisted and how it was woven.
Silk can also vary in quality. Instead of thread count, silk is measured in momme weight which is how much a standardised size of silk weighs. The higher the momme weight, the better quality the silk. For bedding, the ideal momme weight is 15 or over.
The most commonly produced and used silk is also probably the best option for silk bedding. Mulberry silk gets its name from the silkworm diet. When growing, the silkworms are on a strict diet of Mulberry leaves.
Charmeuse silk refers to a difference in how the silk is weaved. Threads are wrapped over each other to create a finished silk sheet with one smooth, shiny side and one dull side.
Eri silk comes from a different caterpillar species from India. It is known as the peace silk because the silkworm doesn’t have to be killed to extract the silk. However, it is not quite as soft as Mulberry silk.
Tussah silk is made from the silk of several species of wild moth larvae. They feed on oak leaves and various other leaves and therefore has no strict colour. Tussah silk can range from golden to brown.
A silk coming from Japan that is typically woven for making kimonos. It tends to be a finer and more lightweight silk.
HOW IS SILK BEDDING MADE?
Methods of modern silk production are still very similar to traditional methods. To make the most common type of silk a female Bombyx Mori first lays around 500 eggs. When they hatch, they begin to feed on provided mulberry leaves which causes them to grow large and shed multiple times.
As they prepare to pupate, they spin a protective cocoon made from a single continuous strand of cotton. The cocoon is bound together with sericin, an adhesive protein that is also produced by the larva. Once the cocoon is complete, it is boiled to both kill the larva and weaken the sericin.
The cocoon is then unravelled by a silk-worker who will load the thread onto a reel. Separate strands of silk are then twisted together to make a yarn, sent through a roller to even out the size and dyed. Finally, the prepared yarn is woven into sheets, ready to be made into garments.
The world’s leading producer of silk is China, generating up to 90% of global silk production. Following China in silk production is India, Uzbekistan and Brazil. Unfortunately, silk production in some of the top producers has been linked to child labour and forced labour. Brands often don’t know exactly where the silk in their products comes from so it difficult for consumers to make ethical buying choices.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF SILK BEDDING
Great for Skin and Hair
Silk is very popular with self-care experts and enthusiasts thanks to its amazing effect on skin and hair. As silk is low friction, it reduces irritation on skin and improves complexion. The decreased friction on hair means you can toss and turn freely all night on silk bed sheets and still have smooth and shiny locks in the morning free from damage.
Along with other luxury fabrics such as Tencel™, silk is naturally hypoallergenic does not contain any unnatural toxins or chemicals that may be irritating or allergy-inducing. It also naturally repels common allergens like dust, fungus and mould making it a great option for anyone suffering with allergies.
Silk is fantastic for regulating body temperature throughout the night. With silk bedding, users will feel cool and dry. The fabric wicks moisture away to prevent overheating and sticky sweats.
HOW DO YOU WASH AND CARE FOR SILK BEDDING?
The major downside to silk is that it can be very difficult to care for. Without damaging the fibres, silk bedding covers can last for many years. However, the fibres can be easily damaged by washing in hot water, exposure to sunlight, machine drying and exposure to chemicals. Damage can cause discoloration and weakening of the fabric.
Silk bedsheet covers are also susceptible to staining whenever anything is spilled on them and tears. Repair of the fabric or effective cleaning will require expensive professional expertise.
Silk naturally repels oils and dirt so a silk bedding set will not need to be washed as often as other fabrics. When silk sheets do need to be cleaned, they can be hand washed in cold water and left to air dry.
IS SILK BEDDING GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT?
Silk is overwhelmingly grown in South East Asia and India which means the transport and distribution of silk products already has a large carbon footprint. However, as most other natural fibres are also grown in these locations, silk’s carbon footprint isn’t necessarily worse.
This is in contrast to Tencel™, with the lyocell fibres produced from sustainably grown Eucalyptus trees in Austria for the European textiles market, from where it has far less distance to travel throughout the supply chain and eventual customer.
The optimal temperature for growth of silkworms is from 20-28°C. As the temperatures in countries of production often exceed these bounds, energy is used to cool the air around them. This makes silk farming an energy-intensive process.
Harvesting silk is not particularly bad for local environments as Mulberry bushes don’t need pesticides or toxic chemicals. Organic silk produced without any synthetic chemicals is generally easy to find and as a natural fibre, will biodegrade once it has fulfilled its purpose.
IS SILK BEDDING VEGAN FRIENDLY?
Silk is not considered a vegan product. After making the silk cocoon, larvae are boiled until dead to prevent them breaking through the cocoon once they are ready to become a fully developed moth.
Some Bombyx Mori are spared for breeding, which produces the next generation of larvae. They have been bred into domestication and no longer have a functional mouthpiece or wings so cannot eat or fly for their 2-3-day lifespan.
WHAT IS THE BEST SILK BEDDING ALTERNATIVE?
For those who crave the luxury of silk but are not keen on its environmental impact or animal rights issues, Tencel™ offers a solution. As a relatively new luxury fabric, Tencel™ is steadily gaining recognition with more and more use cases.
It is produced sustainably and ethically with limited wasted materials and no wasted life while maintaining superior standards of quality.
With the right weave and care in production, you can achieve all the benefits and luxurious feel of traditional silk bedding but without the adverse climatic, cruelty or product care issues.