Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Worm Has Turned

Ever wonder where we got the phrase "the worm has turned"? Did you say Shakespeare? Then you were right. It appeared in Shakespeare's Henry VI part III " the smallest worm will turn, being trodden on." Then the phrase meant even the most humble will strike back if abused enough ( remind you of the Tea party or the you tube video of the boy that was being bullied). Like many English words and phrases it evolved over time to its current meaning - the situation has changed. So what does turning worms have to do with dry cleaning? SILK ! Silk is obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm. The two countries that are the largest producers of silk are China and Japan.

Silk is a beautiful and yet fragile fabric. It comes in may forms. It can be smooth or rough. It can be raw, polished or suede. The colors and weaves used for silk fabrics are endless. Silk can be used for wearable fashion and for home fashion.

Silk does have some problems. I'm going to help you look for some of these problems before you plunk down your hard earned money and some that occur from wear. Let's start with one you can avoid before you buy.
Yarn slippage looks like puckering or separation between the fibers. It is caused by the yarns slipping apart or seam separation. The fabric will have a rippled or distorted effect and appear thinner. It can appear any where on the fabric. The yarns are not broken but have slipped across the warp yarn. How can you tell before you buy? Hold the garment up to a light - you will see areas where the yarns have a slight separation. You will notice that the yarns don't look straight but slightly wavy. These areas will eventually pucker and will become holes. So before you buy a silk blouse, shirt, dress or whatever - hold it up to light. ( sound like Poltergeist - "look into the light")
Sometimes relatively new silk garments will show holes or tears for no apparent reason.The damage appears as a local loss of fibers or tears on the fabric. Sometimes there will be a visable discoloration in the weakened area. ( in whites it will appear yellow - in colors it will appear a lighter shade than the original color). This is caused by chloride salts. chloride slats are found in perspiration and deodorants. Chloride salts are also found in many foods, beverages,skin lotions .medicines and table salt or salt water. When the solution dies, the moisture evaporates out, but the salt residue remains int eh fabric and starts the chemical process that degrades the silk. So does this mean - don't wear silk in Texas in the summer. NO! it means get the silk cleaned after wearing and make sure the cleaner pays attention to the underarms and any area you may have spilled liquid on. Just because you don't see the stain after it dried doesn't mean it's still not there. ( once again think Poltergeist - just when you think the ghosts are gone - they rear their ugly heads - and haunt you - stains not removed will haunt your silk and make holes)
You know what this looks like - the dye in an area is lighter or just gone. The dyes on silk are fragile. That is why your cleaners charges more - it takes time, patience , and knowledge to work on silks. Do NOT RUB SILK. What does that mean? OK - picture this - You are sitting at a restaurant and you spill white wine on your blouse or shirt. You quickly grab your napkin and dunk into your water glass and rub stain and it's gone. But so is the dye. when you look down that area will look lighter or once it's cleaned it will lighter. This may be able fixed by a knowledgeable dry cleaner( no promises) but if it can be corrected - it will need that done every time its cleaned. NEVER RUB SILK. ( oh while we at it - the napkin dabbing thing - yes I've done it - but never never never do that with an oil-based stain e.g butter or salad dressing)

Silk dyes can be solvent soluble or water soluble. That means some dyes on silks cannot be washed and some cannot be dry cleaned. How do you know? If you've been reading this blog - this is an easy one - read the care label. So what happens if you don't follow the care label - over-all fading.

Silk fabrics are more prone to fading from light exposure than most fabrics. This is especially true for bright,vivid colors ( blues, greens and purples). This can be caused by sunlight, strong artificial light, and ultraviolet light. ( I have never understood why a builder puts a window in a closet - can you say light fading on all your clothes)Light fading can happen with even minimal exposure to to the light source. Never place a silk in direct exposure to light. ( silk drapes with no lining or sheers - bad idea!)
We are not talking about those painful legs stretching things that cheerleaders do but lengthwise ( I guess kind of like those cheerleader legs) in the fabric . The thin warp yarns are broken and thicker filling yarns remain intact. This happens from the stress of wear and can be aggravated by by the cleaning process. If this happens it needs to be returned - the manufacturer needs to balance the yarns during construction.

So now you know - silk is a great fabric but one that needs special care. It can be soft and shiny or when raw nubby and rough. It is versatile. You can wear it or your windows can be draped in it. Beautiful rugs are constructed from it. Silk was first used in China in 3500BC. Any fabric that old - has really got something going for it. So enjoy the fabric that was once only for Chinese emperors and empresses.