For centuries, satin fabric has been used in everything from tapestries to footwear. Whether silk or synthetic, satin's luxurious feel and look is unmistakable. Once a costly fabric unattainable to all but the wealthy, satin fabric is now a popular and affordable material thanks to modern manufacturing processes coupled with the invention of synthetic threads.
Satin isn't actually a fabric, but a specific type of weave. Fabric has two sets of threads, the warp and the weft. The warp runs the length of the fabric; the weft runs from side to side. In the satin weave, at least four weft threads are woven over a warp thread. This causes the light that reflects over the cloth to not be as scattered as in other types of weaves, creating an even sheen across the fabric. Satin can be made out of many different types of fibres including silk, nylon and polyester.
The satin weave originated in China and was made from silk. Its name comes from Zaitun, a Chinese port where satin was exported. In the 12th and 13th centuries satin was exported to Italy and became highly desired by the Romans and Greeks. Because of its richness and luxuriousness, satin was the preferred weave for royal garments and was only attainable to those with great wealth. It wasn't until after the Industrial Revolution and advances in the textile manufacturing process that satin fabric became more affordable to the common man.
Satin is delicate and must be cared for properly to extend the lifespan of the cloth. Acetate and silk satins should always be dry cleaned. Nylon and polyester are safe to wash in the machine on the delicate cycle in warm or cold water with a gentle detergent. Satin should be hung dry and never twisted or wrung. Set your iron on the coolest setting and press on the dull side of the fabric. This will restore the sheen.
Stains are difficult to remove from satin, but not impossible. The best thing to do is to read the label and follow the manufacturer's care instructions. When searching for stain removal products, find one that is safe to use on satin, and never use bleach. For bloodstains, soak in cold water first and then wash gently by hand in cold soapy water. Rubbing the fabric to get the stain out will most likely ruin it, so always be gentle and blot as much of the stain out as soon as possible, before it has had a chance to set.
Some common types of satin are crepe back, duchesse, antique and slipper. Crepe back is a slinky, high-lustre reversible fabric. It is made from a highly twisted thread for the weft and smooth filament thread for the warp. Duchesse satin has a high thread count. Crisp yet lightweight, silk duchesse satin is frequently used in bridal gowns. Antique satin is created using weft threads with thick and thin areas called "slub." This gives the fabric a textured look. Slipper satin is a heavy satin used in footwear such as toe shoes for ballet dancers.