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Silk Yarn – Guide To This Yarn Material & Best Uses

Looking for a luxurious, shiny yarn?

Silk fibers might be the perfect choice. I explore what silk yarn is, and ways to use it for knitting.

Silk Yarn Skeins in Silver Colorway

Table Of Contents

What Is Silk Yarn?

Silk yarn is an animal fiber sold at expensive prices.

This fiber is popular because it’s beautifully soft, cool, lustrous, and has wonderful drape. 

They have excellent stitch definition, and great for garments.

It’s available in all colors of the rainbow.

Here is a video by Lion Brand Yarn on what this yarn is. 

YouTube video

This is a fantastic overview of silk yarn and knitting with it.

Where It Comes From

The fiber comes from the silkworm’s cocoon. The worm is a caterpillar that weaves a cocoon to turn into a moth.

Cultivated silk comes from specifically raised silkworms who are fed a special diet to ensure certain fiber qualities.

Wild silk comes from silkworms who feed in the wild, which creates a coarser fiber.

It was first developed in Ancient China, and for centuries, it was a closely guarded secret.

Around 300 AD, the practice spread to other parts of Asia.

Europeans fell in love with the fiber and eventually learned how to make it.

Most of it is produced in South Asia, like in China and India.

How It’s Made Into Yarn

After hatching, silkworm larvae feed for around a month as they mature.

When they’re ready for adulthood, silkworms secrete filament threads to form a cocoon.

When a silkworm has completed its transformation, it exits its cocoon.

After the moth hatches, the empty cocoons are collected and the fibers are unwound and spun into yarn.

After the moth lays between 400-600 eggs, they die.

The most prized silk comes from cocoons that are unbroken. This means that the pupa is killed by either boiling or heating the cocoon.

Types Of Silk

Mulberry silk, Eri silk, Tussar silk, and Munga silk are the main types.

  • Mulberry Silk – Around 90% of silk is produced by mulberry silkworms, which are considered the most valuable. They eat mulberry leaves.
  • Eri Silk – It’s from the silkworm Samia ricini, found in North East India, China, and Japan. “Eri” means “castor”, as the silkworm eats castor plants
  • Tussar Silk – This comes from the silkworm genus Antheraea from South Asia. They live in the wild.
  • Munga Silk – It’s from wild silkworms from Assam in India. It’s durable, has a golden tint, and a nice sheen

How To Wash Silk Yarn

Here are the care instructions for silk fibers.

  • Handwash white and colorfast silks in cool water
  • Use mild detergent
  • Rinse with water
  • Lay flat or hang to dry
  • Don’t iron or bleach it

Always check the yarn label for instructions specific to the yarn you’re using.

Does It Shrink When Washed?

Yes, it may shrink when exposed to heat, so avoid washing it in the machine, drying it or handwashing it in hot water.

How To Soften Silk Yarn

Washing it after you’ve finished knitting always helps!

Pin For Later

Silk Yarn Pin

What Do You Use It For?

It’s often used for projects and things like

  • Summer tops
  • Scarves
  • Lightweight sweaters
  • Shawls
  • Garment knits

Silks are the favorite fibers of many shawl knitters, as it’s shiny and beautiful.

A silk blend provides strength, shine, and luster. Silk blends well with wool for sweaters, cardigans, and winter accessories.

It’s a little slippery to knit with, so I don’t recommend using metal needles. Bamboo or brushed stainless steel is a wonderful choice.

Here is a video tutorial by Chantelle Hills on how to knit with this yarn. 

YouTube video

These tips are really helpful, I was surprised by the first one!

Common Blends Using This Fiber

Here is a list of common blends using this yarn and other fibers, and why they’re created. 

  • Silk/Merino Wool – to add luster, drape, and strength
  • Silk/Cotton – for a cool summer feel
  • Silk/Linen – for a matte finish with good drape
  • Silk/Rayon – for a soft sheen and comfortable feel
  • Silk/Cashmere – for a luxury feel

Sometimes it’s blended with alpaca or mohair.

In these blends, silk adds softness, luster (lustre), and a beautiful sheen, while the others add warmth to the skein.

A blend with acrylic is rare.

Where To Find It

Here’s where to find this yarn.

  • At a yarn store or craft stores in your area
  • Online brand shops
  • Hand-dyed yarns from Etsy

Here are brands or manufacturers of silk yarns to try.

  • Malabrigo
  • Debbie Bliss
  • Noro
  • Lana Grossa

What’s The Price Like?

Silkworms must be reared and cocoons spun before the final product is produced.

Demand for silk has increased and silkworm availability has declined, making silk more expensive.

Interesting Facts

Want to know some fascinating tidbits about this material? Impress your friends with these.

  • It has a protein called sericin that protects the fibers
  • Moths hatch from the cocoons, not butterflies
  • The earliest known example of this fine fiber comes from 3630 BCE in Ancient China
  • Raw silk is twenty times more expensive than raw cotton
  • Sericulture is the word for silk production
  • It’s the strongest animal fiber
  • It’s usually available in lace weight yarn
  • Silk yarns were used for many textiles in the early 20th century in the United States(2)

Q&A

Is Silk Yarn Safe For Babies?

Yes, it’s safe for babies because it’s excellent for sensitive skin, however, it’s super expensive.

Is Silk Yarn Ethical & Eco-Friendly?

Wild silk aims to not disturb the animals, and only collect the cocoons when they’ve been finished with.

Cultivated silk uses lots of water, energy and resources. In many instances the pupae are killed before they hatch so the cocoon is not broken.

It takes thousands of silk worm cocoons to produce a pound of yarn.

Always do your research on where the yarn is coming from.

What Can I Make With Leftover Silk Yarn?

You can make

  • Headbands
  • Scarves
  • Bandanas

Is Silk Yarn Itchy?

No, it’s not itchy because it’s hypoallergenic, and even better, it’s antimicrobial.

The super soft feel of silk is lovely against the skin.

Is Silk Yarn Good For Clothes?

Yes, it’s good for clothes because it drapes well, it’s strong, and is delightful against the skin.

Be aware that Silk yarn will show up differences in tension and any mistakes made in your knitting.

Is Silk Yarn Good For Winter? 

Yes, it’s good for winter because it’s an excellent insulator, but it’s best blended with a warmer woolen fiber.

Is Silk Yarn Good For Summer?

Yes, it’s good for summer because it’s a natural fiber and it breathes well.

Knitted Silk short sleeved tops and tank tops are lovely to wear in summer.

Open design lace shawls knitted in silk are perfect for summer evenings.

Do Silk Yarns Pill?

No, they don’t pill.

Can You Dye Silk Yarns?

Yes, you can.

Does Silk Yarn Have Stretch?

Yes, silk stretches.

What Is Banana Silk Yarn?

It’s made with banana tree bark.

The outer bark layers are stripped and soaked to leave cellulose fibers, which make the yarn.

What Is Sari Silk Yarn?

Sari silk is waste silk from the production of saris. The fabric is cut into strips and twisted or spun into yarn.

Silk Vs Wool

Silk is a protein fiber, and wool is made from the hair of sheep. They’re both soft natural fibers, but silk is stronger.

Silk is also more expensive than wool.

Can Yak Wool Be Blended With Silk?

Yes! Yak wool is warm, and silk is strong, making it a great combination.

Happy crocheting or knitting! Hope you enjoyed this article. Do you have questions? Please leave them below!

References

  1. Wellfelt, Emilie. 2014. “The Secrets of Alorese ‘Silk’ Yarn: Kolon Susu, Triangle Trade and Underwater Women in Eastern Indonesia1.” https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/943/.

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Jodie Morgan From Knit Like Granny

About Jodie Morgan

Hi. I’m Jodie Morgan, creator of Knit Like Granny. I started this site to show 1,000,000 people the joys of knitting & highlight alternatives to fast fashion. Please say hello!

Jodie Morgan Profile Pic

About Jodie Morgan

Hi. I’m Jodie Morgan, creator of Knit Like Granny. I started this site to show 1,000,000 people the joys of knitting & highlight alternatives to fast fashion. Please say hello!

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