Common Silk Textile Uses

Silk is used primarily in apparel and interiors. The range of apparel extends from special occasion costumes to casual T-shirts and silk underwear. Considerable demand for silk for use in wearable art and craft designs has fostered development of catalog and web sourcing for silk, a textile that has become hard to find at the retail level as specialty, high-quality fabric stores have become less common throughout the country. Interior textiles are primarily upholstery, wall hangings, carpets, hand-made rugs, and sometimes wild silk wall coverings treasured for their texture. Silk flowers and plants hold a special place among interior accessories. Recently, there has been a growing demand for silk liners for sleeping bags, silk blankets and sheets. Silk is found in medical products such as dental floss, braces, and surgical sutures, prosthetic arteries, and bandages. Often wigs are made of silk. Silk is also used to make tennis racket strings, fishing lines, parachutes, and hot-air balloons. Remarkably, silk has a number of industrial uses as well, including as crosshairs in optical instruments, as a component of electrical insulation, and even as an ingredients in facial power and cream. Silk was even used in the nose cone of the Concorde jet. Nevertheless, the primary contemporary use for silk is as a fashion textile, continuing a tradition that has lasted for thousands of years.

See also Fibers; Textiles, Chinese; Wool. BIBLIOGRAPHY

Collier, Billie J., and Phyllis G. Tortora. Understanding Textiles.

Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2000. Hatch, Kathryn L. Textile Science. Minneapolis: West Publishing, 1993.

Kadolph, Sara J., and Anna L. Langford. Textiles. 9th ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 2001.

Parker, Julie. All about Silk: A Fabric Dictionary and Swatchbook. Seattle, Wash.: Rain City Publishing, 1991.

Carol J. Salusso

SIMMEL, GEORG The German sociologist and philosopher Georg Simmel was born in Berlin on 1 March 1858 to assimilated Jewish parents. Between 1876 and 1881 Simmel studied history and philosophy in Berlin. His doctoral thesis (1881) and post-doctoral dissertation (1885) both dealt with Immanual Kant. His rhetorical gift proved to be successful with academic and nonacademic audiences alike, and his lectures became social events. In 1890 he married the writer Gertrud Kinel. A year later they had their only son, Hans. In 1894 he published the essay "The Problem of Sociology," which inaugurated a separate social science. Simmel and his wife were at the center of cultural circles in Berlin; their friends included the poets Rainer Maria Rilke and Stefan George as well as the sculptor Auguste Rodin. In 1903 his essay "The Metropolis and Mental Life" constituted an early study of urban modernity. Latent anti-Semitism, reservations about the academic validity of sociological studies, and envy of Simmel's social popularity hindered his professional progress in Berlin, and in 1914 he accepted a call to the university in Strasbourg, where he died on 26 September 1918.

Simmel's discussion of fashion, significant for its early date within academic discourse, its conceptual rigor, as well as its metaphysical breadth are defined by his simultaneous adherence to philosophical tradition and the formation of a sociological methodology. Accordingly, he viewed fashion both as an abstract concept that generates and influences cultural perception and as a defining factor in social and interpersonal relations. Simmel's beginnings as a neo-Kantian philosopher prepared his view of cognition as a biological process of adaptation by human beings to their environment, a view which is not only situated in a scientific (neo-Darwinian) discourse but also extended to culture—intellectual as well as sensory— within a contemporary (modern and urban) environment. Simmel defined the truth within expressions of reality pragmatically through its appropriateness for living practice. This led him to the emerging discipline of sociology, which developed the ground for direct application of such concepts to sociopolitical existence. His precursors herein were Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, and Gabriel Tarde, and among his contemporaries were Ferdinand Tonnies, Werner Sombart, Fmile Durkheim, and Marcel Mauss.

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