The Silk Road

E.D Wolfe

                  Hi all. Silk is probably my most favourite of all the furnishing cloths. Unfortunately it is one of the more costly, tricky to work and live with due to its properties (see blog FABRIC FLARE (the basics)  Published on 3/27/2015).

                   From its texture to its luxurious sheen. Even the silk that doesn’t have a sheen has a drape that I go week at the knees for. 

                   This post is going to explore the application of silk in interiors.

Enjoy the read



This was the original trade route through regions of Asia.


Extending 6,000 kilometres (4,000 miles), the Silk Road derives its name from the lucrative trade in Chinese silk carried out along its length, during the Han dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE).


For more than two thousand years the Chinese kept the secret of silk altogether to themselves. It was the most zealously guarded secret in history. Next to the protection of tea cultivation.

According to well-established Chinese legend, Empress Hsi Ling Shi, wife of Emperor Huang Ti (also called the Yellow Emperor), was the first person to accidentally discover silk as weavable fibre.


One day, when the empress was sipping tea under a mulberry tree, a cocoon fell into her cup and began to unravel. The empress became so enamored with the shimmering threads, she discovered their source, the Bombyx mori silkworm found in the white mulberry. The empress soon developed sericulture, the cultivation of silkworms, and invented the reel and loom. Thus began the history of silk.

Whether or not the legend is accurate, it is certain that the earliest surviving references to silk history and production place it in China; and that for nearly 3 millennia, the Chinese had a global monopoly on silk production.

The major silk producers are still in Asia, accounting for 90 % of mulberry silk and 100 % for non mulberry silk, but also silk is produced in Brazil,Bulgaria, Egypt and Madagascar . The main raw silk producers in the world are China and India, but also Brazil and Thailand have their share of silk production.

If you want to learn more about the history of silk go to .

Silk is a wonderful looking fibre it has its ups and downs.

  • Strong filament.
  • Elastic and resilient.
  • Refracts light, lustrous appearance.
  • Insulates.
  • Easy to die.
  • Watermarks easily.
  • Rots in sunlight.
  • Fades in sunlight.
  • Creases.


This was a raw silk by Swaffer that is sadly now no longer in production.

Curtains By E.D.Wolfe

Interlined and lined, double pleat with contrast leading edge and “pin trim“. (A pin trim is when you insert a piped trim between a leading edge and the main cloth then pull out the cord. Giving you this lovely thin contrast)


As you can see, great for blinds and curtains. It was wonderful to work with. At first glance it looks like a thin linen, but when you touch it, it is wonderfully soft and supple. My workroom made a comment of how fantastic this fabric was to work with.


When working with silk it is strongly recommended that you hand stitch where possible, it makes for a far neater finish especially the hem. Also with interlining being required you would have to hand slip the sides and hems to stop puckering and tension issues.

Why Interline?

Due to silk being a light weight fabric that is also susceptible to fading, interlining is required to add weight to the curtains and blinds and an extra barrier against the sun damage.


   Whiteheads Silk 101

Without interlining the silk would appear thin and limp. And to be honest they look awful in my opinion.

I would never personally recommend silk used in an area that got a lot of sun, eg:- south facing room and or window, conservatory and I would never recommend it was used on upholstery, it would not last five mins. I have seen it used on the odd chair for pure decoration though.

When manufactured correctly they look beautiful and can be used to manufacture many styles, modern and traditional.

When making throws with silk I would line and at least lightweight interline. Do make clients aware that it is a decorative item only,it will not stand up to even medium wear and tear.

You have to really watch manufacturing with silk velvets, they can be very slippery. It takes a highly skilled seamstress to handle this type of cloth.

One of these fabrics is a silk,viscose velvet. It has so much movement you cant make it into blinds and the curtains have to be pooled because it relaxes so much. It is however one of my utmost favourites. Intaglio Collection by James Brindley


Intaglio Cashmere.




Three Designs above by in Stellar by James Brindley

I have even put lining on the back of silk to turn them into cushions for extra strength.

original_lola-silk-cushion-amethyst noton the highstreet

Cushions from


James Hare Silk

They also look great with trims.

Amy O'Riely 1

Curtains Manufactured and Designed by

Unfortunately I would advise against cleaning interlined silk curtains most times the results would be dreadful. They also must be kept out of damp areas such as bathrooms, mould loves silk.

There are several different types of silk and they all vary in appearance, quality and benefits. Some have short filaments and some long strong ones. All are beautiful.

Charmeuse, Chiffon, Crêpe de Chine, Dupion Silk, Fuji Silk, Habotai Silk, Noil Silk (raw silk) and Tussah Silk (or shantung). 

Companies are using silk mixes at the moment to reduce the down sides to silk but keep the luxury. In fact there are quite a few combination fibre fabrics that are very convincing faux silks.


Inedit1 INOUI Casamance

 INOUI by Casamance

 73% VISCOSE, 17% SILK, 10% WOOL

The choice of silk these days is amazing. Printed, plain, embroidered, shiny, shot, matt. There is a silk for every occasion.



Harlequin Fabrics Saphora . Double pleat interlined 3 inch kick onto floor. Master Bedroom


Plain Silk curtains and Pelmet. Designed By Uber Interiors



Curtains Manufactured and Designed by


Great embroidered Voyage silk. I made some great dining room curtains out of this a year back, they looked wonderful.

You sometimes have to watch the embroidered silks. If there is a lot of embroidery on them they tend to have ripples between the stitching. This will not necessarily disappear during manufacturing. It can be a problem when making curtains with a pelmet. You make the pelmet and due to the pulling of the cloth in manufacturing the ripples are smoothed out, however they will have remained in the curtains, thus the same fabric can take on a different appearance textually. (Something clients need to be aware of).

I designed a pelmet curtain combo a few years back. The pelmet was a gradual bow curve. In this case the ripples came in handy because when you curve a pelmet it ripples the fabric. With the ripples already being there, there was no issue.

GP and J Baker silk embroidered curtains and pelmet fully lined and interlined.

GP and J Baker silk embroidered curtains and pelmet fully lined and interlined.

I hope you have enjoyed our brief romance with silk?

Till next time.

Thank you


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Quantifying Fabric For Curtains

FGoblet pleat”One of my strongest convictions and one of the first canons of good taste, is that our houses, like the fish`s shell and the birds nest ought to represent our individual taste and habits.”

Mary Hawies

The comments above were made by Mary Eliza Haweis she is best known as an important figure in the female literature of household taste that flourished in the 1880s, her most famous work being “The Art of Decoration” (1881). I feel her comments still stand firm today { a point that some designers in the industry need to be reminded of}.

I am E.D.Wolfe interior decorator / designer, technical expert and soft furnishings specialist with 20 years experience in the public sector of the wonderful world of interiors and home decoration. Needless to say I feel I have a lot to say about the industry, trends and who is doing what and how well.

I have started this blog for several reasons mostly because I have more family commitments and can no longer work the hours required by demanding employers and clients, as well as not wanting to work for other people and having to adopt their ethos which did not always coincide with mine. This often has got me and my big mouth into trouble until I finally evolved to the stage that I would bite my tongue. So many times my point of view clashed with the powers that be. I hated having to put profit and loss before the design or the clients needs . Frustrating is an understatement.

I found the only advice I felt completely free to give was when I was giving it freely {without payment}. I have therefore begun this blog to pass on my experience and advice to whomever needs it.

You can glean from it what you will without fear that I am trying to sell you something.

Hopefully I can stop people making huge mistakes, helping them with a problem or advising them how to tackle an issue. Not to mention how to avoid being screwed over by the greedy and inexperienced in the industry.

{ how not to line the owners pockets with money furnished by reselling the off cuts you have rightfully paid for}

This can be simply avoided by understanding how fabric quantities are worked out.
DO NOT WORRY. It does not a mathematician take. I barely scraped a C in GCSE maths {with help} and even I can do it.

It is kind of like hanging wallpaper if you have ever tried this . You will notice depending on height of wall, size of pattern repeat and how this comes together the size of the off cuts {waste} will vary.

Hopefully the images I have provided will also help.

cutting repeat

Information Needed.
1. What are you making
2 Pole / rail size and finished length of product when hanging.
3 How many drops of cloth are needed
4 What is the pattern repeat. {this info is readily available in books, on samples or by the
cloth manufacturers, all else fails and you have a piece then measure it vertically}

For arguments I am going to work out a basic pair of pencil pleat {normal gather} curtains.
We will work in cms for simplicity. But please work in inches if you find that easier {I do}

Pole = 2mtrs
Finished length = 2mtrs

Pencil pleats normally work on between 2 to 2 1/2 x the fullness.
I like a fuller curtain personally.

200cm x 2.5 = 500 cms

Now fabric is normally 137 cms wide this is the width of a roll. The bit of fabric along the edges that sometimes has only writing on is called a selvedge {try not to get caught out with the speech, it can sound like a whole different language but it is not and some try to use this language to confuse, as well as make themselves look clever and occasionally to make you feel not as clever . I only used it when someone annoyed me and looked at me as if to say what does she know. (Joke)

selve edgeexamples of selvedges.

So we know we need 500cms across the pole for a nice full curtain so lets see how many drops that is? 500 divided by 137 = 3.64 Oh know I hear you cry. Do not panic. You have a choice you can go for 3 which is just about 2 x full or 4 which is 2.74 x full. I would advise 4 on a flat window and 3 on a bay {less room in a bay}. But it is completely up to you, also if it is a thick cloth stick to the 3.

4 DROPS THEN. So that is a pair of curtains with two widths in each curtain.

The Pattern is 64 cm {most are this or 30cm give or take}



200cm FINISHED so you will need a bit extra for hems {bottom} and turns {top}.
I used to work on 22 cm {9 inch} in total. It does vary from company to company.
Some use a little more and some a little less.

SO 200 + 22 = 222 now how many patterns fit into this?


4 pattern repeats at 64 = 256 cm {This is your CUT}

4 drops at 256 cm = 10.3 mtrs. This is how much cloth you need. Any seamstress or company trying to add a repeat on every drop should be professional shot.
Extreme I know but this is a wasteful way of doing things and costs you a lot more.

If the pattern has something on that you want to start in a particular place you will need to add a repeat if you are ordering it in, if on the roll just take a look and start in and pay for the bit extra you need to do so.

With this example you end up with approx 34 cm waste . Not a lot I hear you say. Not on this occasion but sometimes you can end up with enough waste for cushions and they are better off being your cushions than someone else’s who has bought the off cut re sold at 100% profit by the people who made your curtains.



I know there are many other styles and types of curtains but this is the basic. Please do message on problem chat if you have style not mentioned or detail not outlined and we will endeavour to help you. The chart below details basic curtain styles and the recommended fullness.

Pencil = 2 – 2.5

pencil pleat heading

Pinch (this can be 2 or 3 pleats) = 2.5 – 3


Goblet = 2.5 – 3


Eyelet = 1.5 – 2


These estimations are all based on hand sewn pleats and not tapes, please use the tape manufacturers guidelines.

BLINDS, BLINDS, BLINDS. All about blinds in the next post, keep a look out?

THIS BLOG claims no credit for any images posted on this site unless otherwise noted. Images on this blog are copyright to its respectful owners. If there is an image appearing on this blog that belongs to you and do not wish for it appear on this site, please E-mail with a link to said image and it will be promptly removed.