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Sewing with Silk: Woven Silks

Video: Threads magazine

In this episode of the Sewing with Silk video series, instructor Katrina Walker guides us through some of the most common types of woven silk fabrics. You’ll learn about chiffon, gauze, organza, habotai, broadcloth, taffeta, dupioni, shantung, and twill.

Silk fabrics are described by weight, with the traditional unit being the “momme” (pronounced “mummy”). The lower the momme number, the lighter the silk, and usually the less expensive it is. If you are shopping by mail or online, it’s helpful to look for the weight so you can differentiate among options.

Chiffons and gauzes

These floaty fabrics are the lightest of the woven silks. They typically weigh between 4 momme and 5 momme. They are woven from softly twisted yarns and have a loose, drapey hand.


This stiff fabric is about 4 momme in weight. It is made from tightly twisted yarn, and includes some of the cocoon’s sericin (silk gum), which gives organza a stiff hand. It is lovely on its own, and is good for supporting other silks.


Habotai is also called China silk or lining silk. Real habotai is a fine, hand-woven silk from Japan. The term is now used to describe a tightly woven, flat-finished, plain-woven silk. It’s difficult to sew because of the tight weave, which tends to cause puckering at seamlines. It is a good choice for making scarves.


This textile looks almost like cotton broadcloth. It has a dry, smooth hand, and it makes excellent blouses.


Like broadcloth, taffeta is an unbalanced, plain-weave fabric: The weft yarns are heavier than those in the warp, creating a fine ribbed effect. Taffeta is crisp and makes a rustling sound, called “scroop.” It is stiff with a lot of body. This makes it ideal for full ball gowns, petticoats, and structured…


About This Video Series

In this 20-part workshop, textile expert Katrina Walker introduces us to silk fabrics. She covers the gamut from silkworm to crafting beautiful silk garments, so you never need to fear working with this luxury material. Episode topics include sericulture: how silkworms are cultivated, and how the silk filaments are harvested from cocoons. You'll learn about the many categories of woven silk fabrics, including crepes, satins, and jacquards. Katrina also offers advice for matching your fabric…

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