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Guide to Shantung Fabric in the Home

Updated on February 17, 2011

Do you know how many different fabric options you have when it comes to decorating your home? I recently wrote on article on ten top textiles for home design and that list just barely covers the tip of the iceberg. Each textile has its own history and its own place in a modern home. Take, for example, shantung. This great silky (but rough) material has a history as a fashion design material but has recently made a comeback in home design. This guide explains more about what shantung is and how you might use in the decoration of your own home.

Shantung is Neither Light Nor Heavy

One of the things that really makes shantung stand out as a top material for home design is the fact that it’s neither a lightweight material nor a heavyweight material. The fact that it’s a medium weight material means that shantung works in the home during all seasons in nearly any climate.

What is really interesting about shantung is that it’s not merely a mid-weight material but rather a material that is made up of a unique combination of lightweight and heavyweight features. The result is a fabric that is very fascinating to the touch as well as to the eye. Furniture World Magazine does a terrific job of describing the unique nature of this material as "a medium to heavy weight, plain-weave silk fabric with an unevenly ribbed or rough surface and a crisp texture".

Materials Used in Shantung

Shantung is usually made from silk fibers. This accounts for the lightness of the material. Interestingly enough it can also account for the rough texture of shantung because the wild silk that is often used to make this material has a bit of roughness to the touch. This roughness is enhanced by the ribbed weaving that is used to make shantung. Notably there are synthetic materials and silk blends that may be used today to make shantung home décor items. The texture is similar to both the eye and the touch although may not be quite as soft and luxurious as true silk-made texture.

Shantung is a Stain Resistant Material

One great quality to note about shantung is the fact that the material is naturally stain resistant. It is also a very durable material. This makes it a great choice for home décor since so many décor items can easily become dirty. The downside is that when shantung does need to be cleaned it typically requires extra care in comparison to more standard home decorating materials like cotton.

Shantung Throw Pillows

The most common place to see shantung in the home today is on the couch or bed in the form of throw pillows. The great texture of this material makes it nice as an item that you touch frequently. It also enhances the texture and design of the other materials in the home, such as the upholstery on the couch where the throw pillows are placed.

Other Options for Shantung in the Home

Although throw pillows are the most common shantung item found in the modern home, it is possible to use this fabric in many areas of home decorating. Some of your choices include:

o   Curtains / Drapes. This material is a terrific choice for window treatments. The fact that it’s an all-weather material makes it ideal for placement around windows because it lets in the light while blocking out its glare. It also allows for proper insulation in most climates. Another great thing about using shantung as curtains is that this material tends to hold its color really well even when sunlight shines directly on it for long periods of time. Other materials, like gingham, may fade easily over time but this isn’t typically a problem for shantung curtains.

o   Tablecloths. Shantung is a nice material to be used as a tablecloth. It is more commonly used on side tables and as decoration than it is as a functional table cover for the dining room. This is due to the difficulty of cleaning shantung fabric in spite of the fact that it is stain resistant. However, it is possible to use this textured material as a functional tablecloth should you so choose. It will add a nice effect to your dining room and can be a top choice for special occasion meals.

o   Bedding. The silky medium weight feeling of shantung makes it a choice that people sometimes use for bedding. It is used in place of other standard sheets, especially in rooms where the bed is intended more for decoration than function (like in guest rooms). Shantung may also be used as the bed skirt for any bed in the home, adding some texture as well as color to the rest of the bedding. A great option is to add some of those popular shantung throw pillows to the bed as well, preferably in the same shade or pattern as the bed skirt.

o   Accent Pieces. Shantung is a really versatile material that can be used throughout the home in various accent pieces. For example, you probably didn’t know it but there are accent table lamps that used shantung as the material for the lampshade. Other common shantung accent pieces include furniture covers, table runners and sideboard coverings.

Buying Shantung Home Décor

It is possible to purchase any of these shantung home décor items in various stores across different styles and price ranges. However, it is worth noting that this is a home decorating fabric that a lot of people choose to purchase in the raw. If you are someone who likes to use fabric to make your own decorations for the home then shantung is definitely a fabric to consider!


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