What is mulberry silk?
Read on to find out what mulberry silk is, where mulberry silk comes from and why it is considered the golden standard of silk fabric.
You might be wondering what a word that either looks like a person’s name or the name of a plant is doing next to one of the most sought-after fabrics in the world.
Any guesses as to what mulberry actually refers to?
For those that guessed that mulberry is the name of a plant, give yourself a pat on the back! Mulberry is indeed a reference to the mulberry tree (the mulberry leaf in particular).
Did you know: The mulberry tree is a key ingredient involved in the production of the mulberry silk. It’s a species of shrub native to India and China that bears fruit resembling blackberries (boysenberries). Only the white mulberry variation, however, is used to create mulberry silk.
Now that we’ve answered the first part of what mulberry silk is, let’s take a look at the silk part.
Where silk comes from
In case we’ve misled you, allow us to clarify something important: silk can’t actually be created from mulberry trees alone or any plants alone for that matter.
So then where does silk come from?
To the surprise of many, silk strand used to create a silk sheet are actually produced by an insect called the silkworm.
Believe it or not, this special variety of caterpillar is responsible for creating almost 100% of the silk used in global textiles.
Disclaimer: While alternatives like synthetic silk (a.k.a. artificial silk) and spider silk do exist on the market, both options face unique production challenges like economies of scale. Given the same opportunity as natural or organic silk to evolve over thousands of years, we believe “new silk” will have a shot at mass adoption in the next 20 years.
Imagine a world without soft silk bedding, the occasional silk pillowcase, comfortable lingerie, gorgeous wedding dresses, skin-caressing pajamas and all-season daywear by Adeera. What a bleak thought right? We agree!
Heads up! Adeera is always on the lookout for the sustainable silk fabric suppliers. If you know any sericulturalists or small-batch silk production mills that fit the bill, we would love for you to tell us about them here!
Defining mulberry silk
The technical answer to the question "what is mulberry silk" is any silk that is spun by silkworms raised on a mulberry-leaf diet but context is important when it comes to understanding what you are buying.
Note to savvy shoppers: We highly recommend reading to the end of this post to know what to look for when buying products like a bed sheet, mulberry silk pillowcase and silk nightgown.
Grades of mulberry silk
Let’s start with the pitfalls of marketing.
The term “mulberry silk” has evolved into a marketing reference over the past thousand years. Sure, it can reference a high quality silk fabric but without more information there is no way to distinguish it from a low-quality mulberry silk product (as an example).
To back up this claim, consider the fact that more than 95% of silk fabric in the world is mulberry silk. Suddenly “mulberry silk” doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?
Tip: “100% mulberry silk” and “natural mulberry silk” marketing should be taken with a grain of salt. This does not guarantee things like durability and a high grade silk feel that you may be after.
Other marketing examples
Did you know the term “genuine leather” refers to the second worst grade of leather? In case you are into sustainable, high-quality fabrics like we are - consider buying full grain, top grain or vegan leather instead.
Note to shoppers
If there’s one thing the shopper in you should walk away with today, it’s that silk is graded on an alphabetical scale where A, B and C silk grades are assigned in high to low grade order.
For example, grade A silk is better than grade B silk (which in turn is better than grade C silk).
Mulberry silk in particular is further paired with a number to identify its fine properties (think of this like you would with cotton sheets and thread count).
Unlike its letter-based counterpart, the number associated with mulberry silk products has 6 tiers where a higher number represents a superior mulberry silk quality.
When buying mulberry silk products, remember that 6A mulberry silk is considered the best grade whereas 1C is considered the most economical.
Variations of silk
Now let’s look at a different way to answer the question “what is mulberry silk?”.
You’ve probably guessed by now that there are other types of silk on the market. At a high level, there are only two kinds of silk: wild silk and domesticated silk.
Mulberry silk is considered a domesticated silk given that it is produced indoors.
Unlike the case with fish where “wild” is the preferred adjective relative to quality, “domesticated” silk is superior for a variety of reasons:
- It’s cleaner in terms of the number or organisms it comes into contact with during production and is odorless compared to wild silks.
- It is more durable than wild silks.
- Its white pigmentation makes it easier to dye and create silk strands in colors other than white.
- It has stronger hypoallergenic qualities making it a better choice for those with sensitive skin.
Next let's take a look at silk that comes from caterpillars with a different diet.
The most commonly used wild silks include castor oil silk (eri silk), tassar silk and muga silk that each have slightly different properties.
For example, whereas mulberry silk is white, tassar silk comes in the form of a green thread. Muga silk can even be produced in yellow which makes it popular domestic fabric in countries like India.
Why consumers choose mulberry silk
Adeera recommends owning at least one 6A mulberry silk fabric product to see what all the fuss is about.
We covered what makes mulberry silk a better choice than wild silk but see below for a comprehensive list of reasons why we think everyone should wear silk daywear at least once a week:
Reduces clothing pollution with a naturally-occuring, biodegradable material.
Silk thread is stronger than steel, kevlar, rayon, nylon, other man-made fabrics and produces durable, long-lasting clothing.
Unrivaled antibacterial, hypo-allergenic properties vs cotton, polyester, wool, lycra, etc makes silk the most skin-friendly option for clothing. It's also odorless and treated with minimum chemicals.
Memorable soft-gloss texture with unparalleled comfort.
Breathable, all-season properties to sweat less in the summer and stay warm in winter.
Beneficial trade off. At the expense of needing some silk care (hand wash items ever so often), silk fabric has more health benefits than any fabric on the market.
What is mulberry silk?
In summary, mulberry silk is:
- A kind of silk produced by silkworms that feed on mulberry leaves.
- The opposite of silk found in the wild. It is a domesticated silk used in almost 100% of global textiles.
- The highest quality of silk used in textiles if it has a 6A grade. Any grade below 6A is still high-grade but would not be considered the highest grade.
- An ideal fabric for products like silk pillowcases, sheets and clothing because it's durable, hypoallergenic, antibacterial, breathable and smooth.
There are a lot of different ways to answer “what is mulberry silk” and context is important. Depending on who you’re asking or the setting in which the term is being used, the perception of this silk can vary enormously.