Sometimes called China silk, although it is not exclusive to China and until recently what we call habotai was more commonly known as jap silk, certainly in the dressmaking world.

 Hobotai is a finely woven silk with a soft hand, good drape and a gentle lustre. It looks like a fine tafetta, smooth and slub-free. It’s firm enough to hold it’s own, floaty enough to be really interesting in layers, and for drapery, pleating, embroidery, quilting and smocking.

As with all silk, habotai takes dye well and is readily available in every colour you can think of; as each supplier has his or her own colour range, if you don’t find what you want, just keep looking.


* Its fine-ness makes it suitable for lampshades, especially most pleated and gathered ones.

* The traditional way to prepare lampshade frames is by binding the struts with lengths of jap silk or habotai: these are cut on the cross, approx. 2.5cm (1” ) wide and then folded in half for use; the binding, lining and top cover can all be made of the same jap silk.

* Even when the top cover is made of a different fabric we will often use habotai for the lining, perhaps in pale gold or pink, to give a flattering light.

Windows and Beds

* As silk is so easily affected by direct sunlight, it’s not suitable for sheers or blinds unless it’s either fully lined, or designed for a window that is away from intense daylight, shaded outside by foliage or blinds.

* Habotai is excellent, either lined or unlined, for the inside drapes of four poster beds, and for the tented or pleated ceilings.

* We use it double thickness when we need to increase the weight  or intensify the colour- a realistic option as it is relatively inexpensive.

* It drapes well, so for any fine drapery …

* Unlined layers of similar or toning colours look good – either pinned stitched or together at the top, or hanging separately so that they can be pulled individually or grouped.

Cushions and Upholstery

* For cushions and bolsters habotai always looks best under- lined, at least if you’re looking for a smooth rather than crumpled finish.

*Always under-line it when it’s used for piping or Italian quilting to prevent the ridges and junctions showing

* Habotai can be used for delicate upholstery–in bedrooms–if it is under-lined and carefully treated, otherwise it will tear easily.

see pleated lampshades, jap silk, silk

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