Tussah vrs Mulberry Silk Top – what is the difference

1 04 2011

I have been housebound this week feeling like death warmed up and have been pottering with the silks that have been dyed and are begging to be packed.  While I was away last week, Glenn dyed the remaining silk colourways plus the Tussah silk.  He did a great job and here are some of the Tussah silks waiting to be packed (and still waiting).

One of the key things I explain when I am running classes or workshops using silk is that there are two different types of silk fibre – Tussah and Mulberry.  To over simplifiy, there are two different types of silk worm, they eat different things, come from slightly different environments and therefore create a different silk. 

Mulberry silk is often referred to as Bombyx.  These terms are interchangeable.  It is a higher quality silk than the Tussah.  Mulberry starts life as a cream colour; Tussah is honey coloured.  Mulberry is much finer than the Tussah and the individual strands are longer.  Mulberry is always more vibrant and lustrous.  Tussah is flatter and more matte in appearance.   If they were wool, the Mulberry would be the equivalent to super fine merino and the Tussah would be equivalent to Corriedale or another coarser, higher micron fibre.

Because they start their lives differently, they take the dye and other processing differently.

This photo shows Tussah on the left and Mulberry on the right.  They were dyed in the same dye bath at the same time.  Both pieces weight 25 grams.  The difference is noticeable isn’t it?

Tussah and Mulberry dyed in my 'Rose Petals' colourway

You should always pay less for Tussah than Mulberry.  There is a significant difference in price per kilo.  I charge $8 for 25 grams of hand dyed Tussah and $10 for 25 grams of hand dyed Mulberry.  I have seen Tussah labelled and sold as Mulberry, so hopefully this will help you differentiate.  Price itself is not the issue, if you want the clean crisp lustre of Mulberry you will never get it from Tussah.  However having said that, there is room for both and I love both.  Both are glorious and I often use them in combination to give a broad mix of texture to a piece.




7 responses

2 04 2011
pat dwyer

Great explaination Cecile I love your blog.

2 04 2011

thanks Pat, I am trying to fill it with useful information.

2 02 2014
Sarah Severn

I have just purchased a duvet filled with tussah silk. Would I have been better paying that bit more and chosen a mulberry filled duvet?

2 02 2014

no Sarah, Tussah will be fabulous in your duvet. I actually prefer it for many things.

7 09 2017
Susan Kavicky

Are the different silks equally soft?

19 09 2017

yes, they are, except for cocoons, rods and sericin fibre which are firm

20 09 2017
Susan Kavicky

Thank you!!!

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