Tussah…Tussar…Tassar…

Bug of Tussah Silk

There are, generally speaking, two major types of silk.  Up til now, all the weaves I’ve been discussing, have been from cultivated silk.  Cultivated silk is is spun from the cocoons of the Bombyx Mori silk worm.  Tussah silk is spun from the cocoons of undomesticated moths, specifically of the Antheraea family, usually A. paphia, A. mylitta, and A. pernyi, but any moth of the Antheraea family can spin Tussah.

Some key differences between the two genus.  Bombyx mori are bred in captivity and represent thousands of years of animal husbandry.  Bombyx mori are raised on a diet exclusively of mulberry plants.  Berries, leaves, twigs.  This is why raw silk has a naturally white color.  Mulberry is so linked with the raising of silk worms, that prior to Byzantium stealing the secrets of silk, the smuggling or trade of mulberry was also punishable by death, as it was known that silk worms only ate mulberry.

Antheraea genus, however, feed primarily on oak trees, fig, plum, or juniper.  The tannins this produces results in a soft yellow colors, ranging the color spectrum from very dark, to pastel yellows when the cocoons are spun.  Additionally, tussah silk is of inferior quality, very rough texture.  The filaments are coarser and more irregular, and don’t accept dyes as readily as cultivated silk does.  As a result of the inferior quality of the filaments and yarns, tussah silk is coarse, very prone to seam slippage, and does not drape or gather well.

While generally I believe most silks can be washed at home, hand washed or even using a gentle cycle on the machine, the overall rough texture of tussah silk makes it likely to dissolve under rough handling.  And no matter how cautious you are, you really can’t handle it as gently as dry cleaners would.  So Tussah silk ideally is dry clean only.  On the flip side, the texturing of it makes this one of the easier silks to work with.

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