Satin is a beautiful material that has a smooth, luxurious feel and yet it is extremely common to not actually know what satin is.

what is satin? Satin Dupion Plain Fabric close up
Satin Dupion Plain Fabric close up

In this post, we provide key details that answer – ‘what is satin?’, how it is made, the different types of satin and then also some pros and cons for when to use it.

What Is Satin – And What It Isn’t

To answer the question of what satin is we first have to touch upon what it isn’t. Satin is not a raw material, it is not an equivalent to wool or silk for instance.

Instead, satin is a type of weave. It is only possible to make satin from certain raw materials and using those materials does not mean you are automatically working with satin. To give an example, satin can be made from silk, but simply working with silk is not to say you have satin – the silk must be weaved into the satin pattern.

The Origins of Satin

The satin weaves is thought to have originated around 2,000 years ago in the Chinese port of Quanzhou – Zaitun is the Arabic name for this port, satin therefore a derivative of this name.

It took hundreds of years for the satin weave to become known globally – Italy started to produce this fabric in the 12th century and by around the 14th century it was available throughout Europe. However, that is not to say it was available to all, this being before the advance in man-made fibres, satin could only be made from silk and this made it an expensive fabric – one typically reserved for the church and those with extreme wealth. Satin was a status symbol as well as a wonderful fabric.

What Is The Satin Weave?

The satin weave is more complicated than other weaves, an example is shown in the image below.

satin weave
what is satin? an example of the satin weave (wikimedia)

Without getting overly technical, the intersections are more complex between the horizontal and vertical threads (the weft and warp yarns). The satin weave has long runs of the warp or weft yarns. The effect is to create a pattern that does not disperse the light as much as other weaves and this is where the sheen comes from.

There are variations on the satin weave, but the basic fundamental applies, a weave that has these longer, unbroken runs of yarn that creates the effect where the light shimmers and shines off the surface.

While satin has this luxurious feel to the front, the back will be duller, this again a result of the weave process, a pattern designed to make a lustrous finish on one side of the garment on end product. 

Which Materials Can Make Satin?

If a satin weave is used on a filament fibre (a continuous fibre) such as silk, nylon, rayon or polyester then this is a satin – a few purists continue to suggest a satin must be made from silk alone.

As mentioned, using silk does not, however, automatically make a fabric satin – the weave is all-important. 

If a satin weave is used on a short-staple fibre, cotton for example, then the resultant fabric would be considered a sateen.

Are There Different Types Of Satin?

In a word, yes.

There are different weaves and then different type pf this wonderful fabric.

A four harness satin weave sees the weft thread go over three warp threads and then under one.

A five harness weaves changes this pattern to four and one, an eight harness satin weave making it over seven and under one.

Ten types of satin can be formed, as listed below. The 10 are not all used as regularly, some reserved mostly for specialist tasks.

The Advantages of Satin

Satin has a luxurious look and feel – this is often the key advantage and who it is chosen.

It is also versatile, as shown by the different types of satin and sateen listed above, and it can be durable, the taut nature of the fabric stronger than many plain weaves.

Satin is also wrinkle resistant, this especially true of thicker satins.

Satin is also a material that can be printed on, with high-quality, vibrant colours and images – this creates the perfect combination of a soft, luxurious look and feel and a vibrant pattern printed on to the surface.

The Disadvantages of Satin

As with all fabrics, there are pros and cons – no fabric can be the best choice for all tasks.

Satin can be difficult to sew and work with because of its shiny, slippery texture.

Satin can also snag, this because of the way the threads interlace, creating those longer runs in one direction. 

Caring for Satin

Satins made from synthetic fibres and cotton sateens can be washed at home, but those made from silk must be fry cleaned.

For hand washing satins (where applicable), it is best to use a delicate or hand-wash cycle and use a cold water setting. After washing it should then be put flat on to a clean towel, this ensuring it retains its shape. Squeezing dry, hanging fry or, worst of all, placing in the tumble dryer can all lead to the fabric becoming mishapen.

Do You require Satin?

At Citrus Rain, we have a wide choice of satin fabrics, these all available for you to print your own design upon

If you are unsure about which textile is right for you, simply browse the fabric pages and order a material swatch FREE to help you make the best choice for your printed fabric.

Each sample is a physical example of that particular fabric, printed with its name, width, weight and other details.

We happily offer you full fabric information with an example of our print quality in advance.

At Citrus Rain, we are a leader in a leader in digital fabric printing and have worked with brands including the BBC, Virgin and 2012 and 2016 Olympics – we also work with individuals and smaller businesses to help them fulfil their printed fabric requirements.

To make an enquiry, please call 0161 320 3637 or use or Contact Form.