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Crepe de Chine

crepe de chine

We already discussed Crepe, but how is Crepe de Chine difference from Crepe?  Obviously there is a difference, words matter, and they each carry a unique name.  Surprisingly, Julie Parker was not as helpful as usual, listing the major difference between the two as Crepe de Chine is French for Crepe from China.  But good old Fairchild was supremely helpful (p. 157):

“A fine, lightweight, plain weave silk fabric woven with a silk warp and a crepe-twist silk filling alternating 2s-2z…more ends than picks per inch.”

Translation:  There are more warp threads, which hold the tension on the loom, than there are weft threads.  The warp threads are silk filament.  The weft threads alternate two rows of s-twist filament and two rows of z-twist filament.  This creates a very smooth smooth face, a firm hand, and a lustrous, slippery surface.  Crepe de Chine has a smoother surface than Crepe.

Like all silks, Crepe de Chine is easily dye-able and when a solid color is fully reversible; however, given that it has a considerably smoother surface than Crepe, it can also be printed on with a fair amount of ease.  In that case, watch for whichever side is brighter, that’s your primary.

As for when Crepe and Crepe de Chine made it’s appearance, the earliest references to date are 19th century France.  This is not to say these weaves did not exist prior to this point in history.  But so far, no references to them have been found, so use caution with historical sewing and crepe.  But as usual, if you are a cosplayer, go for broke.  Crepe de Chine is lovely, and elegant, lightweight, and sleek.

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China Silk

Processing China Silk, painted on silk

Ahhh China Silk.  How it all began.  5500 years ago, the secrets of silk were discovered in China and once the cocoon unraveled, China began weaving it.  The result was the original, plain weave, one over one under, China Silk.  Soft and lightweight, easy to work with, pleats like a dream, with a fine hand, this alluringly flowing fabric is usually found in 5mm to 10mm, but can be woven in any weight.

The ever fabulous Fairchild (p. 119) provides the following definitions for China Silk:
1. A plain weave, lustrous, lightweight, very soft silk fabric produced in China and Japan from irregular yarn

or

2. A raw, white silk yarn of superior quality from northern China.

The Original Weave is graceful and elegant, used commonly for slips, lining, lingerie, and blouses.  Because of how very lightweight it is, China Silk is frequently semi-sheer; however once you get in to 12mm or higher, the silk becomes more opaque and can be used for dresses.

Another frequent use for this fabulous fabric is veiling for Raqs Sharqui, with 8mm being the preferred weight.  And because it is 100% silk, China Silk soaks up and holds a dye in any color or combination that one can dream of.  Truly a versatile weave with wide applications, China Silk is reversible, and easy to work with.

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What’s in a Weave?

Amethyst Glass Silk Satin

In a blog post earlier this year, I asked the question What’s that Fiber?  I provided a brief list of different fibers, then a slightly more thorough detailing of the three different weaving techniques most commonly used.  I’m going to write a (long) series of posts describing what specifically each weave is.  The three weaves are Plain, Twill, Satin.  But there is TREMENDOUS variety within those three categories.  So what’s in a weave?

Just in a silk fiber, plain weaving is used to create Batiste de Soie, Broadcloth, Chiffon, China Silk, Cloque, Crepe, Crepe de Chine, Dupioni, Four Ply, Georgette, Habotai, Matka, Noil, Organza, Peau de Soie, Pongee, Shantung, Taffeta, and Shot Silk.  Seriously!  All of those DIFFERENT fabrics utilize a plain weave to create different drape, different hand, different look.  Which says remarkable things about the ingenuity of Man.  And none of that includes weaves that are specific to cotton, wool, or linen!

Utilizing a Twill weaving technique creates Gabardine, Surah, and Tweed.  Satin is it’s own weave, but you use satin techniques to create brocade, charmeuse, damask, and matelasse.  And silk can be knitted!

Plain weave, as defined by The Fairchild Books Dictionary of Textiles 8th Edition, is as follows:

Simplest and most important of the three basic weaves, used in about 80% of all woven fabric…is executed by passing each filling yarn successively over and under each warp yarn, alternating each row (p. 463).

plain weave
Like this. This is a blown up, close example, of what a plain weave is.

EIGHTY PERCENT OF ALL WOVEN FABRICS!  That’s a pretty big number!  Also means the variety found in plain weaving is a result of thread spin, and treatment.

Twill’s, according to Fairchild, are “A basic weave characterized by a diagonal rib, or twill line, generally running upward from left to right…Each end floats over or under at least two consecutive picks (p. 643).

Twill weave
Basic twill weave

The third most common weave is Satin. From Fairchild, “A smooth, generally lustrous fabric, with a thick, close texture made of silk…Generally, there is a higher number of yarns on the face than the back (p. 531).  With Satin, the face of the fabric is very smooth and lustrous, while the back is dull with no shine.  A blown up line drawing of a warp faced satin would look like this:

Warp faced Satin
Warp faced Satin

So that’s a little better explanation of what’s in a weave.  Future posts will go in to each particular weave and explain the differences between china silk and batiste de soie, chiffon and organza.

Until next time…

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