Silk is a natural protein fiber, some forms of which can be woven
into textiles. The protein fiber of silk is composed mainly of fibroin
and is produced by certain insect larvae to form cocoons.
The process of silk production is known as sericulture
Sericulture, or silk farming, is the cultivation of
silkworms to produce silk. Although there are several commercial
species of silkworms, Bombyx mori (the caterpillar of the
domesticated silk moth) is the most widely used and intensively
studied silkworm. Silk was first produced in China as early as the
Neolithic period. Sericulture has become an important cottage
industry in countries such as Brazil, China, France, India, Italy,
Japan, Korea, and Russia. Today, China and India are the two main
producers, with more than 60% of the world's annual production.
Mommes (mm), traditionally used to measure silk
fabrics, the weight in pounds of
a piece of fabric if it were sized 45 inches by 100 yards
(1.2 m by 90 m). One momme = 4.340 g/m²; 8 mommes is approximately 1
ounce per square yard or 35 g/m².
The momme is based on the standard width of silk of 45 inches (1.2 m)
wide (though silk is regularly produced in 55-inch (1.4 m) widths, and,
uncommonly, in even larger widths).
Fabrics that are often made from silk include charmeuse, habutai,
chiffon, taffeta, crepe de chine, dupioni, noil, tussah, and shantung,
The typical range of momme weight for different weaves of silk are as
- Habutai—5 to 16 mm
- Chiffon—6 to 8 mm (can be made in double thickness, i.e. 12 to
- Crepe de Chine—12 to 16 mm
- Gauze—3 to 5 mm
- Raw silk—35 to 40 mm (heavier silks appear more 'wooly')
- Organza—4 to 6 mm
- Charmeuse—12 to 30 mm
The higher the weight in mommes, the more durable the weave, and the
more suitable it is for heavy-duty use. And, the heavier the silk, the
more opaque it becomes. This can vary even between the same kind of
silk. For example, lightweight charmeuse is translucent when used in
clothing, but 30-momme charmeuse is opaque. The higher the momme
weight the heavier the fabric which means a greater amount of silk was
used in the weaving process.