What is Shantung?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Shantung is a heavy fabric that is often made with either silk fibers or some form of synthetic fibers that are meant to be substitutes for cotton filaments. Sometimes referred to as spun wild silk, the texture is somewhat rough but not unpleasant to the touch. One of the characteristics that give it its reputation as a rough fabric is found in the weave of the material. Instead of some sort of intricate weave, shantung employs as very simple plain weave design with a ribbed effect. What allows the plain weave to produce the raised or ribbed sections of the fabric is the fact that slubbed yarns are used in the warp of the material.

Shantung fabric, or silk, is often used to make clothing and draperies.
Shantung fabric, or silk, is often used to make clothing and draperies.

The use of raw silk fibers in the weave is sometimes produced with similar results by using nylon or rayon blends that are geared toward imitating the look and feel of slubbed cotton fibers. Whether produced with spun silk or synthetic blends, shantung is a durable nubby fabric that has both texture and visual attraction.

Shantung is a fabric that is commonly made with silk, which comes from the cocoon of the silkworm.
Shantung is a fabric that is commonly made with silk, which comes from the cocoon of the silkworm.

One of the more common uses of this rough silk fabric is in the production of men’s suits and jackets that are considered heavy enough for wear in cooler weather. Ideal for the spring and autumn seasons, shantung jackets can be the perfect compliment to a pair of dress slacks or a pair of jeans. Equally at home in the workplace and as casual wear for an evening on the town, these sports coats do require dry cleaning, but the material is stain resistant, which can cut back on trips to the cleaners.

Along with attire for men, shantung can also be used for dresses and skirts for women. As a material that is heavy enough to drape nicely but not so heavy as to feel cumbersome, it can be used with pleated designs, A-line skirts, and just about any length that is desired. Like the men’s suits and sports jackets, dresses and skirts made of this fabric do require dry cleaning, but are also resistant to many types of staining. The crisp texture goes a long way toward giving any garment made with the material a sharp look that manages to retain a playful air as well.

Shantung has lately begun to make the rounds in household textiles as well. As simple drapery panels, the material holds color well and often does not require liners to keep from fading. It also works well for Cornice boards and swags. As a casual linen option, it can also be employed as table covers and in runners to dress up sideboards and other furniture. As a moderately heavy fabric option, shantung may soon be found around the home more often, and in some new applications.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


Try hydrogen peroxide dabbed gently on the stain, then

launder by hand with warm water and Zero.


Does anyone know if a dress made of shantung would wrinkle easily?


Might one use the following drapery fabric for upholstery of dining room seats: Shantung Claret Solid Decorator Fabric Item# 2712263 from Hancock Fabric?


We have a hamburger grease stain on a light pale green Shantung looking chair cushion.

Any suggestions for removing it? We have tried only cold water with no success.

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