Silk or Satin Violin bags

July 21, 2012 at 04:18 PM · Is there any qualitative difference between silk or satin violin bags? Does one material slow the transfer of humidity in either direction, more efficiently?

Replies (46)

July 21, 2012 at 04:26 PM · Satin is a type of weave which results in the glossy surface ; it is not a material. Satin can be made of silk, nylon or polyester. When some people refer to satin they always mean silk satin.

July 21, 2012 at 06:50 PM · I'd suggest a natural fiber, like real silk, however it may be woven. A lot of 'silky' bags are polyester, and I try to avoid synthetics around my instruments, (even though the case linings are synthetic). Synthetics don't absorb moisture, for one thing, which leaves it sitting on the instrument by default. It's probably a relatively minor point, but it's a pet shibboleth of mine.

July 21, 2012 at 06:57 PM · I would imagine silk satin bags would be a selling point, with silk being a more expensive material than synthetics. I like the idea of natural materials surrounding my violin when it sleeps.

July 21, 2012 at 10:47 PM · how about cotton or fine merino wool or cashmere - I have this old scarf thing that I am planning to cut up..

July 22, 2012 at 02:13 AM · One thing I don't like about commercial satin bags - and even a silk(?) scarf that I got in Paris and had made into a bag - is that the outside where we see it is nice and smooth, but the inside that touches the violin has a rougher texture. After a recent heat wave, I noticed some imprint of this texture on the back of one of my violins here and there.

July 22, 2012 at 05:20 AM · Intriguing topic. Could one line the bag with satin or a very smooth cotton? While we're on the subject, isn't there a problem with the bridge or string windings snagging the bag?

July 22, 2012 at 12:16 PM · After hearing "silk, silk, silk!" from more experienced violinists than myself, I set out trying to find a silk bag for my violin. I came to the conclusion that it's a mythical beast, like unicorns. The only bags I could find were synthetic. I spent a full day, and covered all the Goodwill stores in five cities, trying to find a silk scarf to wrap my violin in. The only labeled silk scarves I found were too small. I did find a large scarf that I THINK is silk, but it wasn't labeled, so I couldn't be sure. Then I happened to discover some 100% silk remnants at a local fabric store. The size and shape didn't lend themselves well to making a bag -- there would have been too many bridge-catching seams if I tried piecing it together -- so I decided to make a new violin blanket instead (didn't really like the one that came with my case, anyway). I used the softest, thickest cotton flannel I could find for the top, 100% cotton quilt batting between the layers of fabric, and the silk on the bottom (in contact with the violin). I feel that this is the best protection I can offer, and it seems to live up to the moisture-barrier reputation of silk -- no peg slippage during the winter "furnace months" (I also use a small, capsule-like humidifier bottle -- the blanket does a much better job of holding in the moisture that the case's original blanket did), and during this hot, humid summer the pegs are still turning easily. With the original blanket, tuning with the pegs was SUCH a struggle!! I'm just starting work on a blanket for my second violin. I'd better not acquire any more violins -- I'm using the last of my silk for this one. :)

July 22, 2012 at 01:13 PM · Another bugaboo of mine with commercial bags is the draw-string. Somehow, sooner or later, it annoys me as it catches this or that, and I remove it.

July 22, 2012 at 04:37 PM · Another issue with commercial bags is the thread used--it's almost always nylon, which might as well be fishing line, given the effect the little loose ends can have. I've always turned bags inside out to minimize the seams and thread's effects. But the blanket idea is good--IF you trust the lining of your case. (One reason I dream Musafia is the quality of the linings available)

July 22, 2012 at 04:42 PM · Here's a description of silk's qualities. I wonder how these qualities might apply to a violin. will it maintain humidity during the winter, and release humidity in the summer?

Silk can absorb an amazing 30% of its dry weight in moisture, giving it similar properties to wool. This makes it a comfortable year-round fibre to wear. Silk thrives in water, although detergents and perspiration can break down the fibre. It is highly resistant to mold and mildew.

Silk has warmth without weight. It is warm to touch and warm to wear. It breathes so can be used as a summer fibre, but makes for light weight insulation in the cold. It has been used for glove liners and sleeping bag inners for extra warmth. Think of a silk shirt, it is warm without having any bulk whatsoever.

"Silk is strong. It is finer than human hair yet is as strong as an iron wire of the same diameter. The only other fibre which comes close is nylon. However, it is still a fine fibre so is subject to abrasion making it unsuitable for high rub areas like carpets or regularly used furniture."

July 23, 2012 at 03:24 PM · better than synthetics, for sure. Besides, your violin doesn't live in its blanket/bag all the time, surely. Let the poor thing breathe. It's wood; it's alive; it needs air.

July 23, 2012 at 03:30 PM · I'm a little busy to add my own two cents on the matter, but I will say that keeping violins, violas, and cellos in silk has made a difference in their reaction to changes in temperature and humidity.

As far as finding suitable silk bags goes, I would recommend you check www.iustrings.com for your silk bag needs. They are very affordable and definitely made well. Can't really go wrong for $15

July 23, 2012 at 03:46 PM · I watched several members of my local Symphony Orchestra wrap their instruments in a swath of pure silk - not a bag. So I've started doing it.

---Ann Marie

October 21, 2012 at 12:48 AM · I just bought a nicely-designed silk violin blanket from Waldbrook Artisans. They have a good selection of blankets, and will custom make one for you too.

December 21, 2012 at 08:24 PM · If I had a choice of any fabric blend for a violin bag, I would choose a silk/cotton blend. Both are strong, durable and have good wicking power. Cotton is a workhorse; silk gives it that lovely fine-textured sheen. A small percentage of nylon or polyester has benefits too. The nylon is very strong and polyester is less prone to wrinkling.

Pure silk is gorgeous, but doesn't quite have the "weight" that's ideal for protecting a fragile or valuable object and it can snag. So... if I had my choice... 50% silk, 30% cotton, 15% polyester, 5% nylon. Whether such a fabric is out there, I don't know, but blends have many benefits.

December 24, 2012 at 03:45 AM · I have no experience with violin bags. But my violins have been stored completely wrapped in blankets inside their cases for many more years than they have been played.

I received my first quarter sized violin in 1946. It appears to have been made in the 19th century. The half sized case is the old paper mache shaped type with a thin lining and black outer paper covering. The old man from whom we purchased the violin recommended that it be wrapped in a blanket inside the case. Therefore my mother salvaged an old cotton flannel sheet to make the blanket. When not in use the violin has been wrapped in that cloth double thickness. Over the years, it has generally been in closets and not kept in attics. Most of the time we have lived in Florida or Texas.

My third violin, full sized, my parents purchased for me in 1955. It was made in Germany between 1921 and 1941. It is kept in a shaped hard case typical of the 1950’s. This time my mother used a remnant of fabric which I guess to be a blend of cotton and man made yarn (did they use polyester then?). The fabric is about 2 ½ times the thickness of a bed sheet and folded double.

After all those years, neither instrument has any loose glue joints nor have they developed cracks in the wood and the varnish remains in good condition. I shall leave you to draw your own conclusions.

I have noticed marks from the bridge in the tops of the cases from my third and new violins. From this I suggest that the blanket overlap needs to be positioned on either side of the bridge to minimize a pressure spot.

ABL

December 24, 2012 at 04:46 AM · I think most modern cases have more cushioned interiors than those of earlier eras.

I had a silk bag many years ago and I still have the silk cloth with which my father wrapped his S. Scarampella every cay after he practiced (he died over 58 years ago).

It is my opinion that bagging a violin is a distinct hazard to an instrument because the of the extra handling required and hence the greater chance of making a mistake and having an accident. Even a large cloth, sufficient to wrap a violin or viola adds extra hazards.

I've been satisfied to use the satin-finished cases and their blankets since my first Jaeger cases at least 40 years ago. Other similarly protective cases should be just as good.

Andy

December 24, 2012 at 12:20 PM · I agree with Andrew, and think the more slippery fabrics are particularly hazardous.

December 24, 2012 at 03:00 PM · Makes sense not to have a bag...I don't, but I didn't think of the extra, possibly slippery, handling. I can see it being an issue.

I would like to just get a pretty silk 'blanket', I recently purchased a double violin/viola case that I actually use mostly to work out of (it sits open on a desk), and an extra bit of fabric between the two instruments helps prevent accidental 'dings' when I put one down or take one up...

There's very little room between the two instruments in my particular no-name case. That's something you might want to consider when buying a case...even an extra 1/4 " would have been useful...

December 24, 2012 at 11:38 PM · Heck, my wife, and probably thousands of other sewing/music enthusiasts, would be willing to put together a really nice custom case blanket for dirt.

Ask around at your local fabric shop?

December 25, 2012 at 01:05 PM · Aw...that would be wonderful :D...however, rather than put her to any trouble, I actually can sew well enough to hem a blanket...

I think I'll go fabric shopping...I'm a bit of a fabric fan...

My main problem is getting around to doing little projects...and finishing them...

January 11, 2013 at 11:32 PM · Andrew is right about increased risk of damaging the instrument if you are pulling it out of or pushing it into a bag, particularly one with a drawstring.

Easier to snag or catch something, easier to drop it.

Perhaps a compromise would be a cloth that wraps with a 6" (or so) overlap and a couple of very small velcro "buttons" or plastic (not metal) snaps (so the snap doesn't go through to the inside of the fabric that touches the violin).

Rather than lifting and pulling it out of a bag, you could pop the snaps, open up the cloth and lift the violin straight up.

I hesitate to suggest ribbon ties, since they could get tangled in strings, bows, or tailpieces.

January 12, 2013 at 07:52 AM · I believe that the bag constitutes a veritable hazard to the violin when your case has the so-called French fit, i.e. padding that follows the contour of the instrument.

If you put a violin in a bag and attempt to insert it in such a case, you'll note that it will tend to catch in the C-bouts, and pushing the violin in will often result in the fabric of the bag pulling rapidly across the corners of the instrument.

If there's any weakness there (such as a reglued corner) it could snag and break something; at best the fabric pulling across the edges causes additional wear to the varnish.

January 12, 2013 at 06:33 PM · Silk is a type of fiber, satin is a technique for weaving fibers. You can make satin weaves from silk or polyester or nylon. Even cotton can be used to make a satin called sateen.

January 13, 2013 at 06:13 AM · Regarding ribbon ties: My violin case has faux suede (tougher than ultrasuede) ties at the neck to hold the violin in place (instead of velcro, which my cheaper case used). The ties have NEVER tangled on anything. I wouldn't worry about ribbon ties on a blanket or whatever, unless they are prone to unraveling.

January 13, 2013 at 12:05 PM · Hi Francesca;

Unlike the drawstring on a bag, the neck tie-down in the case is away from areas where it could catch, such as the scroll, "heart style" pegs, bridge, tailpiece, chinrest, and the corners of the instrument.

January 14, 2013 at 05:30 AM · Thanks for clarifying, David. I've actually never seen a violin bag and have no idea where the ties would go, if not at the neck or scroll. Would it work to have a ribbon which ties around the neck (gathering up the bag near its opening and may be attached to the bag?

January 14, 2013 at 02:34 PM · I believe violin bags are a nuisance and a gimmick. Every manufacturer has to offer them to be competitive. Nobody (except perhaps Dimitri, see above) has the courage to say, "Bags and blankets are useless and potentially damaging, we do not include them with our case products." The same thing with those pathetic little humidity gauges that never work. What will be next? Security alarms? Cup-holders? GPS?

January 14, 2013 at 03:07 PM · Paul,

I am confused by your statement that blankets can cause harm to the instrument. I feel as if the thin blanket that rests on top of the violin in its case prevents harm from the bow suspended above. Plus, it's somthing gentle to rest the violin on when placed on the table. Can you help me understand where you are coming from regarding blankets?

February 1, 2013 at 11:17 PM · We actually supply a pure silk draw-string bag with every case we make, we also supply a three layer blanket.

The silk bag is a pain to make. All the edges have to be machined so the the material doesn't fray (that's before you start making the bag itself), pure silk also isn't exactly inexpensive in the first place either. My fellow case maker is quite correct - just think of the damage a frayed thread could do to a corner!

It's a traditional thing, very tricky to use for sure (I bet 90% of ours never get used beyond week 2), and pain to make, but everyone (almost) wants one. I'd give making them up in a heart-beat.

The three layer blankets are likewise time consuming, and have to be hand finished. I do though think that there's a good arguement (bows for one) for using them, as long as 100% cotton is used for the case lining and blanket. They do need a 'stiffening' material though, or the simply crumple into a heap when the case is picked up.

February 4, 2013 at 08:33 AM · My luthier says "if" you use a bag, use "only" silk (real silk, not the man-made silk, not satin, and, God forbid, no synthetic), he says the instrument's wood "has to" breathe, everything else, to varying degrees, encloses the moisture & we know that is bad news. ~ So, I read almost all of the posts [above] and saw that someone has seemingly done an exhaustive search for real silk & found nothing. I did the same thing several years back & the only thing I found (&, subsequently bought) was a website based in New Zealand which make non-allergenic sheets & pillow cases but it was under an out-door camping gear company's website [go figure?!]; ...so, I ordered three for my two violins & one viola; ...yeah!, I ordered "pillowcases"; no design which rubs off or stains my instruments, no smooth-side vs. rough-side, just 100% pure 'real' silk (only option was the color: white or off-white), and I am thoroughly happy with them. If I can find it [again], I'll post that website's URL; til then, a simple blanket on top should be okay, "if" the real reason is the wood of our instrument should breathe {I guess any other reason, is just for "show"}.

February 6, 2013 at 09:45 PM · Synthetics, even "microfibres", are harder than real silk, and make "micro-scratches" on your delicate varnish, however soft they are made to feel to the touch. When I refurbished my case, I had trouble finding real cotton velvet.

But at least "fake" velvet, silk etc. won't attract the bugs the feast on our bow-hair!

February 6, 2013 at 11:14 PM · At the moment, I'm challenged with knowing how silk (aside from appearance, and maybe wear properties) is better than cotton for an instrument enclosure.

When we handle multimillion dollar museum instruments, we are generally provided with cotton gloves to wear, not silk.

What are the true advantages of silk interfacing with instruments? I suspect we should be looking for something more technical than the "talking points" of silk suppliers.

February 7, 2013 at 11:30 AM · Excellent question, David.

In professional quality cases, makers consider two factors: humidity microclimate stability (which is favored by cotton) and lack of abrasion when putting the instrument in and taking it out (which is favored by silk).

As the two materials are visibly quite different and thus subject to aesthetic taste as well, both materials are widely used being that there seems to be no clear winner.

February 7, 2013 at 02:18 PM · Why not just build a violin case that fits, within itself, another entire violin case. That would be even more protection.

February 7, 2013 at 05:26 PM · So says Paul: Why not just build a violin case that fits, within itself, another entire violin case.

This is of course from the Russian school of violin playing. Made popular by the great Kolya Matryoshka.

TTFN

Pat

February 8, 2013 at 02:27 PM · Pat -- Touche!

February 8, 2013 at 03:09 PM · I bought a silk bag for my violin about 50 years ago. I think I used it for only one week. It was immediately apparent that the daily insertion and removal of the violin was an added physical risk to the instrument, both in terms of wear on the finish and and the danger that the instrument is more likely to be dropped or bumped due to the extra handling - especially in away-from-home situations.

I still have the silk cloth/blanket that my father, who died almost 60 years ago, wrapped his violin in. I don't use that either.

With any case made in the last 20 years, it should not be necessary to add any wrapping on the instrument.

Andy

September 18, 2015 at 11:52 PM · I make case blankets for violins/fiddles and generally use cotton fabrics for the top side (because of the interesting designs that are available) and satin, silk or linen for the instrument side. Even though I also offer instrument bags, I have found through my own usage that unless your case has a bit of extra room around the instrument, a bag can scrub the varnish in tight places. A bag also takes longer to remove when I get ready to play. If you'd like to see my current offerings, they are available at http://www.indigofibercottage.etsy.com

That said, I'm thinking of making some blankets from 100% wool on the top and silk on the bottom. I've never seen any case blankets that feature wool, but because of its insulating properties, I'd think that players in colder climates might appreciate wool. What do you all think?

September 19, 2015 at 12:10 AM · Do we have any way of cleaning the usual case blanket?

September 19, 2015 at 01:49 AM · For the ones that are usually included in a case, I'd think dry cleaning would be an option. However, I would be cautious because the padding in the ones I've see is often a thin foam that might deteriorate in the dry cleaning chemicals. If it's dirty, I'd treat my instrument to a new one.

September 19, 2015 at 06:07 AM · Chris, if you're still making instrument blankets, quilt shops sell wool batting that would be even softer and warmer than wool on the outside. Then you could still use your nice printed cotton. The batting comes in sheets but you might want to do a little machine quilting to keep it in place.

I was wondering about the humidity properties of silk myself. I forgot to hydrate my viola case that has a silk/velvet blanket during a recent heat wave and had to deal with slipped pegs.

September 19, 2015 at 09:07 AM · I haven't read every post, but I strongly suspect that most synthetic fibres are harder than cotton or silk, even if they feel as soft.

September 19, 2015 at 11:14 AM · I came across this web-site while doing a search for commercially available silk bags awhile back. It might be worth a look. She sews them inside out so loose edges and seams don't come in contact with the instrument.

http://www.sarahsviolinbags.com

September 19, 2015 at 11:01 PM · My favorite material for a violin bag is none at all. Same with blankets. I avoid slipped pegs by having gear pegs.

September 20, 2015 at 04:55 AM · I have owned a silk violin bag, and I still have the silk scarf my father wrapped his Scarampella in before putting it into the case - and he died 61 years ago - that's a pretty old scarf.

I think a violin bag is dangerous. It requires extra , unnatural manipulation of the instrument that is just begging for an accident - the scarf, while less dangerous also requires some extra manipulation. If you have a case with a "blanket" that should be enough - and always keep your violin in the closed case when you are not playing it.

Andy

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