Stitching with silk

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.

Pearsall's Fiolselle

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.

Pearsall's Fiolselle

Pearsall's Fiolselle

Silk Mill

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.

Silk Mill

Silk Mill

Au ver a soie d'Alger

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.

Au ver a soie d'Alger

Au ver a soie d'Alger

Au ver a soie Perlee

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.

Au ver a soie Perlee

Au ver a soie Perlee

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!)

11 thoughts on “Stitching with silk

  1. Thanks a lot for these comparison, this is very interesting. I only know Au vers à Soie, as I can find it easily in France, and I did not know that there could be such differences between brands.

  2. I really like your systematic approach to the sampler, especially where you stitch the same motif with different threads. It is very instructive and will be a valuable reference. I’ve never tried Silk Mill or Pearsall’s but am now anxious to do so.

  3. Hi Kathy!

    Could you tell me what kind of lotion do you use to prepare your hands? I’m getting really nervous everytime I try sewing with silk thread.
    Thanks!!
    Mar

    • Hi Mar!
      I ALWAYS use the olive oil and sugar hand scrub (equal parts olive oil and white sugar, mix and massage hands) before i stitch with silk. EVERY TIME. more than once a day if I stop in between and especially if I do dishes or get my hands wet. I have mine mixed up in a small plastic container so it’s ready whenever I need it). For lotion, I use a urea based lotion – often sold for feet. It’s really great but doesn’t smell very nice unless you buy some that has a fragrance mixed in. My German brand is probably not available where you are but ‘m sure you can find something similar!

  4. I have a vague recollection of you saying something about stitching on velvet but cannot find it in old blogs. I have a beautiful piece of brown velvet that i would like to make into a purse embellished with embroidery. How can I keep the stitches from sinking into the pile of the velvet? Thanks.

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