post #16 of 16
We just spent three days in Como working with the weavers and designers and there are several things that can be used to evaluate quality in the silk looming process. If you looked at the emails I get from China, the mills there can weave several miles of cheaply and quickly woven jacquards every day... sometimes even in the finest polyester. Here are some things to consider about the weaving: 1. Weight: A FACTOR of quality but not the end all measurement by any means. With many patterns we use 4, 6 or 8-ply thread to give the weight and texture I want for our new 2005 collection (Feb 1). Some of the Mogadors we are working on for the unlined ties are amazingly dense - we're talking 150 picks per cm density that is so dense you can't even nick it with a sharp fingernail. It gives the weight you need for an unlined 7-fold without too much bulk like you might get by using a 6-8 ply that is more loosely woven. For some of the new silks we are working on the output possible is less than 15 meters PER DAY. 2. Dying - Little known fact. When you hear people tell you that it is a lot cheaper to buy silk somewhere other than Como they have a point. One reason is that the finer mills there use natural dyes that give very vivid colors but don't have the minor drawback of causing cancer. Some chemical dyes are VERY VERY carcinogenic and horrible pollutants. How much you care about that might depend on how many hours per day you spend next to several hundred pounds of silk products (I care.). 3. Speed - some of the high speed mass production looms are very good at what they are intended for - putting out miles of silk each day. With any natural fibers this is not good because you get stretching and uneven pressure, resulting in a fabric that twists and warps. BAD. It takes us 4-6 weeks to do the weaving for say ...20 patterns on the best looms. 4. Finishing: Silk fabric is finished by hand in the best mills. If you've noticed how some silks are 'crunchy' while others are very 'liquid' and supple this is due to how the silk is finished and the chemicals used on it. For the new pocket squares we're doing the finish is called 'gum' finishing - yielding a very supple and slippery hand despite being fairly substantial. This takes time to do right, the 'industrial' weavers don't do this by hand. Of course no matter how good the silk, the construction is equally important. On many of the cheap ties you see at an average department store ($20-40 retail) the silk is not even cut on the bias (if you think of the silk as woven north to south, east to west, you want to cut from Northeast to Southwest or similar) because otherwise stretching, fraying and twisting can result. Other factors like a good canvas (Fine quality, preshrunk wool or linen) is important because otherwise a hot and humid day will warp the hell out of it. Sigh, 300 emails and 100 shipments to do, full Milano, Florence, Como trip report with pics as soon as we dig out...