Every single stitch shows clearly. One must take greater care with silk than with wool. There is no ‘fuzziness’ to mask a slightly inaccurate stitch. In fact, the reflection of the light off the silk shows up any misplaced stitches more than with the other fibers I used. And silk takes a LOT LONGER to stitch with than wool. Duh. It’s thinner – of course it will take longer. But the results are worth the patience it takes.
There is one VERY IMPORTANT THING about stitching with silk – hand preparation. Every time I sit down to stitch with silk I use an oil and sugar hand scrub first and put special lotion on my hands. Then I read a bit while the lotion soaks in and then I stitch. Every time. When I first began to stitch with silk I didn’t know about this. I hated silk; it snagged on my hands, the needle came unthreaded as it caught on my fingers, it was no fun. Then I learned to prepare my hands and now I love stitching with silk!
For my sampler I used four different silks: Pearsall’s Filosell, Silk Mill, Au ver a soie d’Alger and Au ver a soie Perlee.
The first silk I used was Pearsall’s Filoselle silk. It is my favorite. I admit it. It doesn’t tangle. It snags less on rough skin. Chain, stem and fish bone stitch have good texture but retain the smoothness of silk. Satin stitch lies beautifully, each stitch melting into the previous one so that the effect is velvety. The French knots were easy to work and uniform. Using one thread of this silk the stitches can be delicate and very small designs can be worked beautifully.
The second silk I used was from the Silk Mill. Their silk comes in about a zillion colors! It is a z twist so working stem stitch needs to be done stitching outline stitch to look like stem stitch. Confused? Please read this post from Mary Corbet – she’s explained it perfectly! Silk Mill silk comes out of the skein very curly – it must be steamed before use to relax the silk. Once that’s done it then stitches quite nicely. It did tangle and snag more for me than Pearsall’s Fiolselle though. The luster of Silk Mill silk is high and the texture of fish bone and chain stitch are lovely. However, the satin stitch isn’t as smooth as each thread stands out more and the stitches don’t blend as well as with Pearsall’s silk.
I’d used Au ver a sois d’Alger once before when I stitched an Elizabethan sweet bag from Inspirations magazine issue #51. I like d’Alger because it’s luster is more subtle. The fish bone and chain stitches had enough texture and the stem stitch looks especially good. What this thread does well is satin stitch – each stitch blends into the next beautifully and it was easy to produce a smooth, lovely satin stitch.
Perlee thread is the thickest thread of all the silks I used. It isn’t nearly as thick as cotton pearl #5 but still quite thick for a silk thread. Just like the cotton pearl thread the silk perlee has a great texture in the chain, fish bone and stem stitches. The French knots are quite bumpy as you can see from the shadow they cast in the photograph! It’s too thick a thread to get a well blended satin stitch, but the threads lie down next to one another nicely so it looks fine. It would be great used to outline a design stitched in a smoother silk or used as an accent.
Silk is a lovely fiber. It’s expensive but the results are elegant and rich looking. I know there are loads of other silks out there I haven’t tried yet and I look forward to trying them in the future. The next time I stitch with silk will be when I do something with wool and silk together. For that project I’m most likely to use either Silk Mill (because of the high luster) or Pearsall’s Fiolselle (because I love stitching with it!)