The first thing to understand about satin...
Satin is not a raw material.
So, what is satin?
Satin is a type of textile weave. A process for making fabric. A technique. Specifically, satin is a method of weaving fabrics to make them smooth and glossy. What can be confusing is that the fabric created from the satin-weave method is also called satin.
For example, if we take polyester material and weave it in a certain way to create a fabric, that process is called satin. And, the fabric that is created from satin-weaving the polyester material is also called satin.
Any material -- from polyester and rayon, to silk and cotton -- can be used to make satin. Most satin products today are derived from polyester. Many consider polyester to be the best material for making satin fabric. Historically, silk was considered the best for satin, but it is expensive. Polyester is much more affordable and thus more widely used today for satin.
Does it matter what material is used for making satin?
What makes a product satin is the type of weave-technique used, not the type of fibers or materials used.
The most significant characteristic of fabrics made using the satin weave technique is that they are smooth and glossy. The smooth, glossy and often light-weight texture is the feature that is most important for many hair care accessories and also garments such as dresses, lingerie, and linings in coats, hats, etc. Non-satin fabrics tend to have a rougher surface that is less gentle on skin and hair. Thus, the smooth and glossy texture is a favorite for hair care because hair strands can easily glide across the satin fabric without snagging or breaking.
Types of Satin
True satin weave: Different types of satin fabrics can be made with slightly different characteristics by modifying the satin weave technique or by using different materials. However, according to WiseGeek.org, true satin must be woven in a very specific manner. "The material must have at least four threads brought to the surface of the fabric to "float" over a single thread running perpendicularly to them. The threads on the top are called warp strands, which run vertically, while the one on the bottom is called a weft strand, which runs horizontally."
Different weaves: Variations from the standard satin weave process create different types of satin and have different names. For example, charmeuse is a common variation that is made by passing one warp strand over at least three weft strands. Charmeuse is softer, lighter, less glossy and more clingy than the "true" satin described above. It is commonly used for lingerie and sleek dresses.
Different materials: Variations in materials used in the satin weave process also have different names. For instance, sateen is an all-cotton fabric that is made using a satin weave. Sateen is not as smooth as other satin weave fabrics because it is made with cotton. But it is more durable and considered to be a tough material that holds up well to frequent use. Thus, it is commonly used for drapes and bedding.
Technically, the term "satin" means a type of textile weave-- a process for making fabric. But also, people commonly say "satin" to refer to the actual finished glossy fabrics. No matter how you use the term, the key thing to remember is that satin is not a raw material. It is a blend of fabrics created using a specific weave technique. Therefore, what makes a product satin is the type of weave technique used, not the type of fibers or materials used.
Interesting Facts about Satin
- Satin originated in China from silk weavers in the Middle Ages.
- Satin fabrics were originally derived only from silk. Thus, satin was most often worn by royalty because it was expensive and deemed exotic.
- Satin today is affordable, can be made from many materials and with different weave variations.
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