Why Choose A Silk Rug?
Silk has been used as a luxurious fabric for thousands of years, the use of silk gives a sumptuous softness and glowing lustre that feels heavenly cool and decadent to the touch. Silk rugs have often been associated as one of the most luxurious materials used to make fine traditional oriental rugs and also recently contemporary rugs.
Quality silk rugs are created using the traditional rug making technique of hand knotting and are true examples of ancient craftsmanship. A silk rug possesses exceptional strength and durability, creating an item of lasting beauty that will transform spaces for generations.
The Origins Of Silk
Where does silk originate from? Silk fibre is the strongest natural textile in the world and was first discovered by the Chinese in the Neolithic age, over five thousand years ago. The production of silk was a well-kept secret for thousands of years, until eventually information spread to Korea and India, leading silkworms to be smuggled out of the country during the 1st Century BC.
Later in the century, silk became more commonly available, both in its raw form and as rugs, thanks to ‘The Silk Road’. This was a trade route connecting parts of Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, East Africa and Southern Europe. It would see Chinese merchants trade silk for many goods including gold and precious stones.
China is still the number one producer of silk in the world, producing 60% of silk worldwide.
How Is Silk Made?
Silk is a collection of fibres which are extracted from the cocoons of moth larva. These caterpillars (commonly called silkworms), feed on mulberry leaves in their early life, then spin the cocoon over a period of 3-8 days before enclosing themselves inside. The mulberry leaves digested by the silkworms becomes liquid silk, before it is translated into the physical form by the caterpillars to make the cocoon. The silkworms will continue to make the cocoon until all the liquid silk in their body has gone.
Once the cocoon has been formed and the silkworm has been inside for a few days, cocoons are heated using hot air and steam to eliminate the silkworms (now known as Pupa) in order for the cocoon to be unwound. The Cocoon will then be boiled, this makes it is easier to find the end of the silk fibre, allowing the unwinding to begin. The boiling process contributes to the sumptuous softness of silk rugs as it removes the Sericin (protein created by the caterpillars).
The silk is then loaded onto a reel as it is and attached to another stand to create a continuous string. Multiple silk filaments are attached together in order to create one single stand which holds much more strength than the individual silk filaments. These strings are twisted to form a bundle of yarn known as ‘skeins’, making the silk easier to dye and use.
Silk is relatively easy to dye as it is made up of a protein called ‘fibroin’, this ensures that the dye can be absorbed easily and the colours are vibrant. Once this process is complete the silk can be loaded onto spools or tubes ready for weaving.
Rugs Made With Silk
Although silk is a more delicate material than wool, it is still a suitable material for rug making, producing a high quality rugs that have a beautiful shimmer. A silk rug is much more sustainable than any manmade material, with hand knotted silk rugs still at auction today which date back hundreds of years. The strength of this material is partly due to the length of the fibre, with a single unraveled cocoon producing threads of up to 25,000m.
Furthermore, the fineness of the silk allows rugs to be created with a much higher level of detail than other materials, as it can create a smaller knot. This is particularly the case for rugs that have a silk foundation.
However, the key reason why silk has such appeal in luxury rugs, is its beautiful softness and lustre. This sheen is even more pronounced in hand knotted rugs due to the nap of the pile or ‘pile direction’. This means the light reflects off the surface of the rug more from one direction than the other, giving a different impression from every angle.
Due to its high cost, silk is often combined with other materials when made into contemporary rugs. Sometimes the fibres are blended, giving a compromise between the two finishes, or it is confined to certain sections of the design. This is a popular choice for luxury rugs today as the contrast between the wool and silk textures adds depth and complexity to the design.
What Is An Artificial Silk Rug?
In recent years, there has been huge growth in the prevalence of artificial silk rugs, made using materials such as viscose, rayon, bamboo silk, art silk, banana silk, tencel and mercerized cotton. Although the manufacturing process of each of these materials differs slightly, they are all formed from cellulose (plant matter) which is chemically treated to give a similar appearance to silk.
However, although these materials appear similar to genuine silk, their fibres are weaker, with a tensile strength of 1,000 folds or less (folding on itself 1,000 times before breaking) compared to 8,000 for a silk rug. This means the pile of an artificial silk rug is extremely prone to crushing and damage.
Furthermore, artificial ‘art-silk’ rugs can be sometimes problematic with spillages. The quality of artificial silks varies greatly, and sometimes can be difficult to clean. They can be prone to watermarks if a plain design and any cleaning will have to be treated by a professional, with no guaranteed results.
How Can I Tell If A Rug Is Made From Real Silk?
Sadly, there are some rug sellers which are deliberately misleading customers into thinking they are buying a rug with real silk, when it is in fact imitation (art) silk. Although a very low-priced rug is unlikely to be made from real silk, be aware that a high price doesn’t necessarily mean real silk either.
There are several ways of testing if a rug is made from genuine silk or not. Perhaps the least obtrusive way is to vigorously rub the rug with your hand. This will make real silk warm to the touch, with artificial silk remaining cold.
However, a more reliable test is to burn a few strands of yarn taken from your rug. Genuine silk is made from protein, so the smell should be similar to burnt hair and the fibres should burn into a ball of crispy ash. On the other hand, as imitation silk is made from cellulose, this would burn into an ash with a more chalky texture, and the smell should be similar to burnt paper.
Genesis Rug From Our Core Collection by Bazaar Velvet
Introducing Silk Rugs To Your Home
A silk rug or part silk rug is the pinnacle of luxury, perfect for creating an opulent atmosphere in a room.
At Bazaar Velvet, we have a wide range of beautiful wool and silk rugs to select from.
Browse our Rug Collections online or contact us for rug advice tailored to your needs.