Knowing some vestment fabric facts will help you make the right choice when you are ready to purchase liturgical fabric to make your next chasuble, stole, maniple, burse or veil. Here is some information about different types of fabric, along with the associated pros and cons.
Silk is a natural protein fiber that comes from the cocoon of the silkworm. Traditionally, this has been the fabric used for vestments for centuries. Silk is the Cadillac of vestment fabrics, luxurious and supple and a symbol of wealth. Silk was so valuable during the days of Ancient Greece and Rome that it was once sold for its weight in gold.
Silk is warm in the winter and cool in the summer because it absorbs moisture. It retains its shape and drapes well, and of course, it’s incredibly gorgeous. While in the past, one had to take silk to the dry cleaners, you can now wash silk (although a vestment set should probably be spot cleaned instead). Some important vestment fabric facts: When washing silk, never wring the fabric, but instead roll it in a towel. Never put silk in an automatic dryer unless the fabric was dried prior to making the vestment set, as putting it in a dryer could make it shrink.
Silk - particularly the silk used for making vestments – can cost hundreds of American dollars a yard - the most shocking of vestment fabric facts! Use an iron with a high setting on silk and it may yellow and fade. Instead, you should use press cloths and a steam iron. Also, silk can be weakened by sunlight and perspiration.
Acetate is a synthetic fabric made from chemically produced fibers.
Acetate is far more affordable. It has the luxurious look of silk, but will last longer. It is a resilient fabric that is less likely to wrinkle, but is also soft and pliable. It drapes well.
Important vestment fabric facts: Because acetate does not absorb moisture, it can be hot. The acetate in nail polish and nail polish remover will melt the acetate fabric, so keep your vestment fabric away from these products. Alcohol can also melt acetate, so stay away from perfumes that contain alcohol.
Rayon is similar to cotton. It can be silky, smooth, nappy or bulky, depending on its make.
It is also more affordable. Rayon will not melt at high temperatures. It drapes well and is soft and silky. While it will burn at high temperatures, it will not melt.
Again, it is a synthetic fabric and won’t breathe as well as silk or cotton.
The best of both rayon and acetate! Affordable and beautiful.
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