Friday, October 22, 2010

Fiber Friday -- Silk

Cool picture, huh? That is a silk cocoon sitting on a bed of silk threads. Looks like hair doesn’t it. See how fine and shiney it is? Let’s find out some more about this beautiful fiber.

I have not really had any experience with silk finding it rather cost prohibitive for me. However, I have owned silk clothing. In fact, I have a beautiful skirt made of silk haning in my closet now (a fabulous buy at $4.00 on a sale rack). I love its softness and drape, but really hate that it is dry clean only. Silk is a beautiful fabric found in may weights and weaves. So, here is a bit about silk and how to sew it. I may just save up and give it a try one of these days.

Fun Facts
The offical name for silk production is sericulture.

This fiber was invented in China many centuries ago. In fact, it was kept a secret from the world for hundreds of years even to the point of exicuting anyone accused of smuggling it or its processing procedure out of the country.

Only Chinese rulers and high ranking officials were allowed to wear silk at one time.

China produces aproximately half of all the silk made in the world.

The silk worm come from the Bombyx moth that is blind and cannot fly.

A moth will lay aproximately 500 eggs over a period of 4-6 days.

It takes 30,000 worms to produce just 12 pounds of raw silk.

The average silk worm will eat 2,000 pounds of chopped mulberry leaves and is fed every half hour around the clock.

Mulberry-fed worms produce a silk that is more uniform in color, size, shape and much smoother and finer than the silk produced by wild worms.

Silk worms are pampered quite a bit by maintaining a controlled environment. Temperatures are kept at 65 degrees and gradually warmed to 77 degrees. They are sheilded from strong light, loud noises and strong odors such as human sweat.

It takes 3-4 days for a worm to spin its cocoon.

The silk fiber is lightweight, resilient and extremely strong. In fact, it is much stronger than a steel filament of the same size.

So, there you go. Is it any wonder that stuff costs big buck?? Now, on to sewing.

Sewing with Silk

Silk often shifts, snags and puckers when stitched. Here are some helps for handling and sewing silk.

For lightweight silks, you can preshrink them by hand washing them and hanging them to dry. After sewing, you can continue to hand wash. Shampoo is noted to be the best hand washing soap for silk. If you want to color set you silk, use shampoo designed for color treated hair. Cool, huh?

Use very small, fine sewing needles in your machine. Make sure the needle is very sharp.

The same with pins, use only very fine, sharp pins. Buy new ones if you are in doubt about the condition of your pins.

Interface with a sew in interfacing, preferably silk organza (hand wash that too). Heavier silks may or may not use iron-on interfacing. Test it out first before hand.

Cutting can be difficult as it is slippery and tends to shift quite a bit. Lay a layer of tissue paper down on cutting surface, lay down your fabric and then place your pattern pinning it in place. Cut through all layers. This will keep the fabric together and increase the accuracy of each cut.

Sew Happy!


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