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


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.

FABRIC FLARE (The Basics.)

Hi Elsie here.

You would not believe how many people do not know the basic differences and properties of fabric.

This is absolutely vital in knowing which fabric to use in what situation.

Fabrics 101.


Is from the cotton Plant.


  • Comfortable Soft hand.
  • Good absorbency.
  • Color retention.
  • Prints well.
  • Machine-washable.
  • Dry-cleanable.
  • Good strength.
  • Drapes well.
  • Creases easily.

Most times it is mixed with man made polymers that make it crease less = Poly cotton for example.

Poly cotton can also some in textured form to look like velvet.


Sweet Bay Ivory_Green Roomset(3)

Plain died cotton and Sanderson printed poly cotton.

POLYESTER                                                                                                                                       (There are more man made fibres but you will see this mostly)

Man made. Chemical process.


  • Polyester fabrics and fibres are extremely strong.
  • Polyester is very durable: resistant to most chemicals, stretching and shrinking, wrinkle resistant, mildew and abrasion resistant.
  • Polyester is hydrophobic in nature and quick drying. It can be used for insulation by manufacturing hollow fibres.
  • Polyester retains its shape and hence is good for making outdoor clothing for harsh climates.
  • It is easily washed and dried.
  • Not easy to die.
  • Liable to pill.
  • Static problems.

In recent years the process for polyester has massively improved to produce very convincing faux silk. With none of the downsides to silk.



From Sheep


  • Is dull in colour due to it not reflecting light.
  • Warm.
  • Insulates.
  • Highly absorbent.
  • Returns to shape when crushed.
  • Rubs away so ideal to use with other fibres.
  • Shrinks. Can be modified to combat this.
  • Vulnerable to moths.
  • Absorbs dirt.
  • Easy to die.
  • Inherently fire retardant.

Makes great upholstery fabric and is being used more and more in blinds and curtains.

Harlequin Wool.

harlequin-delphine-wools-and-textures-2 Harlequin wool. Delphine.



linen plant

 linen 2

  • Absorbent.
  • Withstands High temps.
  • Lustrous yarn.
  • Very strong.
  • Creases easily.
  • Shrinks.
  • Flammable
  • Blends well with other fibres.

linen-curtains-with-oak-floor1 prod1159311_S14

I love the natural look of linen, the creases  don’t bother me, it is nice feel. Being used more and more in modern designs to soften everything off.


By product of the silk worm.


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

Can be mixed with other fibres  to reduce downsides. Must be interlined to help protect and drape. I would also recommend treating polyester like a silk.

Silk is luxurious and beautiful . Most designers love it.




Embroidered silk GP & J Baker Larkhill collection

These are the basic ones you will encounter. When looking through fabric samples the fibre content is normal on either the back of the sample or in the the back of the book or hanger.

When looking for upholstery fabrics please ask for the “martindale”, this is the rub test that tells you how durable a cloth is. I would personally not use anything under 20 thousand rubs for a domestic item of furniture. Anything over 40 thousand is normally considered to be contract standard. There are also two levels of fire retardancy required for upholstery items. One level for domestic and crib five for contract.


  • Brocade = Figured silk or velvet with silver woven into it to create a design.
  • Chenille = Tufted, velvet yarn. Has a pile.
  • Cisele velvet = Velvet in which some of the loops are left uncut, to form a pattern.
  • Damask = Reversible figured fabric.
  • Jacquard = Figured fabric woven on jacquard loom.
  • Lampas = Figured fabric, with supplementary weft woven over the main warp and ground weft.
  • Moire = Ribbed fabric which is folded in two, then put between two metal rollers, leaving some of the ribs flattened, giving a watermark effect.
  • Ottoman = Silk fabric with broad, flat rib.
  • Panne = Velvet with longer pile and lustrous finish.
  • Shantung = Wild silkworm silk, with uneven finish and poor lustre.
  • Tussah= Silk from oak fed worms.
  • Chintz = Was originally glazed calico textiles, initially specifically those imported from India, printed with designs featuring flowers and other patterns in different colours, typically on a light plain background.


When looking for a fabric. LOOK at how it hangs, or ASK the designer how it drapes.                            A good designer will guide you but if they don’t it is important to ask.                                                 How will this work on short / long curtains, blinds? Does it need specialist lining.                              What are the characteristics of the fabric and are you happy with these?

Ultimately the choice of fabric is THE CLIENTS and not the designer’s. The designer makes SUGGESTIONS only. Too many clients try to push ALL the responsibility onto the designer and likewise some designers do not point out all the pros and cons of a fabric choice.

WORK with your designer to help create a look you are happy with.                                             LISTEN to what they say to help you make the choices that suit you to help create a stylish home that works with you lifestyle and needs.


Again there is a lot more to it than above, but here there is enough to get you started.

For a more comprehensive look at fabric types, I strongly recommend looking at Fabric and Curtain History on It is a wonderful guide and jam packed with information.

That is all for now, hope you enjoyed. 

Thanks for reading.

Elsie . D. Wolfe

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.