There is no fabric that is as sumptuous and well dressed as silk. For your personal wardrobe as well as dressing your windows… The luster of the silk fiber , the way it captures the dye, has inspired many to imitate the look, few rarely achieve.
Silk has been used for thousands of years, mostly by royalty and their court. Some of these beautiful textiles still exist today, but only because great care was taken to protect them from sunlight.
Sunlight will damage any textile. There is no fiber that is immune to the harsh rays of sunlight, not one. Silk is the most delicate. Many silk pieces that survive today, do so because they were ceremonial in nature. Being taken out of storage for special occasions, the silk was ceremonially hung in a place away from direct sunlight and then properly rolled when the ceremony was complete.
One would think that silk draperies then would be a problem? After all, that is a great investment, silk fabric and the labor to make them? There are silk draperies that have survived hundreds of years as well. They were not taken down and stored, they have survived on the windows and remain in remarkable condition. How is this so?
Good drapery techniques start not only with quality materials, and sound construction methods, the details that are incorporated to protect the investment are very important in designing and specifying draperies. This is why it is so important for a drapery workroom to know the fiber content and type of weave the intended fabric is going to be. There are added details that will make or break the value of the investment.
The key to making silk draperies last is in the interlining. The interlining is a layer of fabric in between the lining and the face fabric. This interlining can be as simple as another layer of lining material, a flannel; or when using silks, like a taffeta or duppioni, I love an ‘English Bump cloth’. This is a thick, felted natural colored fabric that supports the silk, protects the sunlight and has highly insulating properties. It creates a look, that cannot be duplicated. I know there are some workrooms out there that have successfully utilized a flannel backed lining to serve the purposes of supporting and protecting the silk and it is often times a less expensive route to go. But the look of a true English Bump can not be duplicated. It is lovely at its best!
You may be wondering why there have been so many lovely silk sheers? Windows are NOT the application for these fabrics! On a southern exposure, silk sheers will have completely rotted off of the windows in two to three years. These fabrics are best used for bed hangings and interior doors or cabinets. There is one risk, I would be willing to take with unprotected silk on a window and that would be a north facing, shaded window. The only way I would feel comfortable recommending that is having visited the sight in person, as I am not one to say always do this, never do that, as there is an exception to every rule. It is understanding the rule, that allows one to successfully break it.