Silk or satin: when the vocabulary of weaving mixes with materials

Many expressions are approximations. But there is one that creates some confusion, that of satin versus silk. Often, consumers equate the two: silk = satin. However, silk is above all a material, and satin is a weaving technique.

However, the confusion is completely understandable: there is silk satin (just as there is cotton satin). Here we explain the differences and similarities between silk and satin. We will take the opportunity to take a little detour into the vocabulary related to weaving.

Are there any differences between silk and satin? What are they ?

“Of course I know about silk and satin. I love buying clothes in these materials, they are so soft and comfortable. " Really ? Silk and satin are two completely different things and are not part of the same family.

Silk is a material, unlike satin which for its part is a way of weaving. There are therefore various types of satin given that there are several ways of weaving. We find for example silk satin , polyester satin, wool satin, nylon satin, cotton satin

To think of satin is to think of a shiny fabric . We assimilate it very easily to this visual rendering. In the collective imagination, satin is synonymous with shine. There is an explanation for this. If you want to have a smoother, more reflective surface, you must use a satin weave which will reduce the crossing of threads and allow you to obtain the shiny side.

The different satins

There are different types of satin since there are different ways of weaving (see explanations further down in the article).

  • Natural silk satin is the oldest satin in existence . Appearing in China more than 2000 years ago, it was mainly used for ornaments and clothing fabrics. Subsequently, it was exported and became anchored in customs as a luxury product.

Silk satin is very shiny because the silk thread woven by the silkworm, the caterpillar of the mulberry bombyx, is naturally sparkling. Silk is also a very strong material. More quantities of thread can therefore be used during weaving and therefore the final surface will be much smoother.

  • Cotton satin , or 'satinette', produces a smooth and silky effect from cotton, a natural plant material. This satin is more generally used for bed linen or even furniture. It feels very soft on contact with the skin, but is not slippery.
  • Polyester satin is woven with synthetic yarns, polyester being an artificial material derived from petroleum. This satin is much more affordable and less expensive, but also more slippery than so-called 'natural' materials and obviously does not have their benefits.

What are the different ways of weaving? Let's talk about textile weaves

If you do not want to weave in satin, then you can weave in twill or canvas for example.

Here we are going to talk about textile weaves: a weave is a sequence of intertwining threads. This creates a decorative or technical pattern.

Twill or twill weave is another weaving method. This is a weave which consists of crossing the fabric threads diagonally. It is this technique which provides a characteristic visual effect with its oblique stripes. Silk twill is often used for ties, for example.

Plain weave is the most common. With plain weave, the threads cross in alternating ways: one thread above, one thread below. You can see in the visual below that the threads alternate differently according to the three main textile weaving techniques.

Weave weave
This is why, for the same material, certain fabrics will have a rather shiny finish and others will have a rather matte finish. The way the fabrics are woven, the type of weave they are made of, will give different results and characteristics.
If we take the example of clothing, if a scarf is woven in silk twill it will be much less shiny than a dress in silk satin. The material is the same in this case but the way of weaving differs.

The particularities of a silk pillowcase vs the particularities of a satin pillowcase

Fans of Benu Blanc silk pillowcases, I will not list all the benefits of silk, a natural fiber obtained thanks to silkworms. You can find them for example in this blog article . I will simply summarize the main benefits here: silk thread is composed of fibroin, one of the two main silk proteins. Fibroin gives a hydrophobic character: the hydration of your skin is respected all night long . Conversely, if you have an absorbent fabric (like cotton or linen which are plant materials and therefore need water), your skin is dehydrated. Silk is also naturally antibacterial, anti-mite and hypoallergenic . Anallergic means that it is impossible to be allergic to silk.

For the record, a pillowcase, made of this noble and ancient material that is silk, is THE first beauty gesture to adopt to protect your skin and hair all night long! Hydrophobic, antibacterial fabric, it will not absorb water from your cells and will maintain the hydration of your hair while you sleep.

Silk is graded according to its quality and numerous criteria evaluate its value. (We wrote a topic upstream on the various types of silk and the different qualities of silk. Do not hesitate to read it if you want more information on this noble material ).
There are also canvases, satins, twills, and even silk velvets.

Satin can be very soft depending on the thread used to weave. Visually bright, it can attract the consumer's eye and bring a bright touch to the bedroom. If the surface is sufficiently smooth and shiny, then the hair will be less pulled because it will rub less on the silk pillowcase unlike contact with cotton or linen.

However, satin cannot replace the multiple benefits of a highly graded silk with many virtues.
Silk is therefore preferred over nylon or polyester satin, for several reasons:

This material is natural, rich in proteins and amino acids, while polyester satin is a chemically transformed synthetic material based on a fiber derived from petroleum.

Unlike satin, silk has unparalleled virtues, it is thermo-regulating, does not absorb humidity in any way and is incomparably soft. Its thermoregulatory side maintains freshness during the summer season, and provides warmth in winter!

Polyester satin, for example, is electrostatic and generates sweat during the night.

With a silk pillowcase, you will never wake up with your hair standing on end or your face full of sweat (unless you have a nightmare!).

If you need and want a silk pillowcase, don't go for a polyester satin pillowcase, nylon as a substitute. If visually, the two may have similarities, be careful! In no case do they have the same benefits for the skin and comfort, quite the contrary.

Washing silk and satin plays an important role in the long term

As you can find in our product sheets and our dedicated blog article, silk must be carefully maintained.
Silk is so fragile that it needs to be pampered. Wash inside out by hand or delicately in the machine at 30° with a suitable detergent; special care must be taken to protect it. It is the revolutions per minute which will have a disastrous effect on the silk. When laundry is washed and spun at more than 800 rpm, the fibers are mistreated. The natural fiber of silk will suffer from excessive spinning and will lose its beauty.

When it comes to satin, each type needs to be cared for in a different way. So be careful if you choose a satin product because damage to the fabric, which is less durable and qualitative over time, can quickly occur.

Beware of silk versus satin confusion

It is quite common to find satin mentioned on a label (clothing, fabric, accessory, etc.).
However, this is not possible given that we have just seen that satin is a weaving technique and not a material, unlike silk. So be attentive to what brands say about the composition of their products, scams are numerous and not always detectable!

Photo credit image of silk fabrics: Pierre Aymeric, photo taken at the Lyon silk festival

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