Why Does Good Quality Thai Silk Cost More?
General characteristics of Silk
There are four main processes in the production of silk:
1. Washing and bleaching the silk threads
Because the silk threads are a natural fiber from the cocoon of the silkworm, they are held together by a glutinous substance. Washing and bleaching is necessary to remove this substance from the silk strands, so that colors can be uniformly and permanently absorbed in the dying process.
In substandard processing, this step is often skipped, so when the threads are dyed, the color cannot be completely absorbed by the threads due to the presence of the glutinous substance. When the dyed fabric is later washed, this "glue" washes out and takes color with it, so the silk loses luster and becomes much more pale in color.
2. Dying silk threads
Color dyes come in varying levels of quality and price. High quality dyes are readily and uniformly absorbed by the silk threads and bond with them in such a way that the colors are virtually permanent. Such colors remain bright and vivid even with exposure to the sun and repeated washing. Certainly, dyes with good quality can be more 10 times expensive than a cheap dye. Substandard processing uses cheaper dyes, which do not have these lasting qualities.
Much of the silk from other countries is woven by machine, using raw silk material (the silk threads have not been previously bleached and dyed). Then the woven silk fabric is bleached and dyed in a single process. This results in a woven silk fabric which has both warp and weft of exactly the same color. This tends to give the fabric a "flat" appearance, without the depth of color one associates with high quality Thai silk.
Good quality Thai silk is woven on hand looms (Gee-Gratoog). The warp and weft are not of the same color, which is what gives Thai silk its natural sheen and luster, and makes Thai silk so unique in terms of color tones and blends. If you hold a piece of good Thai silk up to the light, the overall color tone will change depending on the angle of the light. However, with machine-woven silk, regardless of what light angle you hold it at, it looks the same.
There is also the tightness of the weave. Good quality Thai silk begins with a warp of 2,000 threads for a 1 meter width, which produces a very tightly woven fabric. Producers of substandard quality silk may use 1,800 threads in the warp (or even sometimes as low as 1,600) along with poor weft fabric. All of these factors will make for a looser weave, and also presents problems when the fabric is sewn into a garment, because the material will tend to pull apart in the process.
4. Final soaking in a chemical solution
This is the final step in the production of high quality silk fabric. The purposes of this all important step are several: to preserve the sheen and luster of the fabric, to add weight and make the fabric soft and smooth, to make it easy to iron and wrinkle-resistant when worn. Producers of substandard quality silk usually skip this step, because it is not something readily apparent to the naked eye of the buyer.
The different approaches taken in these four areas of silk production are what create the difference between high and low quality Thai silk, and also explains why the prices differ so widely between them. It is really up to the consumer to decide whether to save money by buying poor quality fabric, and be disappointed later, or to spend more and buy Thai silks of the best quality which will be a lasting source of pleasure.
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