My Low-Waste Life: Seek out Silk

My low-waste life: Seek Out Silk.


Yeah. It’s an indulgence.

And to have silk, you need either time or money.


But if you can make the time, the investment is worth it.

Here are some great things about silk: biodegradable. Strong—the strongest natural fiber there is. Holds color nicely. Can be very soft.


The bad part is, yeah, it is expensive. And it can be difficult to care for. Woven silk should be ironed (bleah) and/or dry cleaned (nope, this environmentalist tries to avoid that).

I recognize my privilege here: I own a car and can drive to the many consignment shops near me. There are even a few within walking distance of my house. And the proximity of consignment shops, combined with a little knowledge, means I have a closet full of silk shirts which cost me no more than eight dollars each.

The best, as in easiest and most economical, way to buy silk is to look for knitted, not woven, silk.

The modern eye is not trained to recognize a knit, so let me help you. Knits will stretch easily when you pull on them, then regain the original shape. The pattern is one of rows on top of one another, rather than, for a weave, a graph paper pattern.

Oh, and speaking of weaves, satin is a type of weave, not a material, so just because it is satin does not mean it is an investment. Some satins are made of nasty yet unwashable fabric. Be sure it is silk.

You want knitted silk because you don’t have to iron knits. You can just throw them in the washer (cold) (yes, even if the label says dry clean) and dry them on the line or draped over a chair somewhere. (Not over wood, though, make it a metal one. Make sure it is painted metal or it will rust.)

How do you know it is silk? Most articles of clothing, even in consignment shops, will have labels at the collar. If there is not a label at the back of the collar, it may be in the lower left seam, in the inside.

If the label has been cut out, you can still tell silk from rayon, even really good rayon, because silk has a distinctive scent. It takes a while to recognize the smell, so you probably want to buy some labeled silk, get it wet so you detect the smell more easily, and then gradually you will come to recognize it. The scent is vaguely similar to raw clams. But only vaguely, and only VERY noticeable when damp.

Silk also often has a sheen, but these days rayon and fine nylon have a similar sheen, so look for the label and be aware of the scent.

If you get a cotton/silk blend the garment may be a little sturdier than pure silk but it won’t be as soft, and you almost certainly have to iron.

Full woven silk need not be ironed if you hang it when still damp on a good-quality hanger. It won’t look quite as good as if you iron it but will be presentable for work.

Good-to-expensive labels work in silk, so I have L.L. Bean, Anna and Frank, Wintersilks, that sort of thing, all at consignment costs, about 5 to 8 dollars each. Because silk is known to be an investment material the garments are stylistically neutral—at least that’s what I tell myself when I have a fifteen year old silk sweater that looks good as new.

Buy cheap, buy often. Buy silk and you won’t have to replace it for twenty years.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s