Silk habotai, often called "China silk," is one of many types of silk fabrics available on the market for clothing makers and fabric artists. It is lightweight, smooth and has an attractive shine that makes it looks expensive. China silk comes in a variety of thicknesses, measured in millimetres; the higher the number, the thicker the silk. Silk habotai is a good silk choice for beginners as well as experienced artists because it is reasonably priced and can be used for a variety of projects such as clothing, wall art and blankets.
Silk weight varies from 5mm to 16mm. The number in millimetres refers to how much the silk weighs or how thick the silk is. Although silk is considered a lightweight fabric, 16mm silk habotai is much coarser than 5mm silk habotai. While lighter weight silk habotai, from 5mm to 12mm, is used for scarves, robes and sarongs, the heavier weight silk is used for wall hangings and fabric banners.
Most vendors sell silk habotai in widths ranging from 36 inches to 108 inches. Popular widths for silk habotai are 36 inches, 45 inches, 55 inches, 70 inches and 108 inches. For clothing, purchase the silk at 36 inches or 45 inches wide, since most clothing items such as blouses and skirts are cut into pattern pieces. For sarongs and one-piece silk items, purchase larger widths such as 55 inches and 70 inches to avoid having to piece multiple silk fabrics together. For banners and large wall art installations, use 108-inch wide silk.
While most types of silk are sold in a bright white colour, some are sold in black. White silk habotai is ready to dye but should be washed with a fabric softener such as Synthrapol or a mild dishwashing liquid. Black silk can be discharged with bleach for interesting painterly effects. Black silk is uncommon and carried by a limited number of vendors.
Compared to other types of silk, silk habotai is reasonably priced, and readily available in many weights and widths from most vendors. Black silk habotai is a little harder to purchase because it is only available through vendors that have extensive inventories of silks. Silk is sold by cut yardage or by the bolt that can be up to 30 yards. The price of silk habotai can range from £1.90 for 5mm, 36-inch wide white silk habotai to approximately £13 for 108" wide, 8mm to 12mm white silk habotai. Black silk habotai between 8mm and 10mm and 36 inches wide usually runs about £3 to £4 per yard.