Stitching with silk thread is one of my guilty pleasures when it comes to my needlepoint hobby. Now, don’t get me wrong. I adore cotton, linen, wool, metallic, and novelty threads, too, but there’s just something about silk…
Have you ever worked with silk?
It’s luxuriously soft, but it’s also incredibly strong. It has a translucent cellular structure that allows it to soak up dyes and reflect light like no other fiber.
The finest silk is pure filament silk…
naturally long strands of an unwound cocoon of the silkworm. Pure filament silk is available either flat or twisted. Flat filament silk can be a wee bit unruly and more difficult to work with, so I don’t recommend using it until you’ve had some experience working with silk threads. Twisted filament silk, on the other hand, is more manageable. Two of my favorite twisted filament silk threads for needlepoint are Soie Perlée and Trebizond.
Spun silk is made of shorter fibers.
It comes from the beginnings and endings of cocoons or from broken cocoons. The shorter bits of fiber are spun together to create threads like Splendor, Soie d’Alger, Vineyard Silk, and Planet Earth Silk. Spun silk also has a beautiful sheen, but it’s not quite as shiny as filament silk. It’s much easier to work with than filament silk – and it’s easier on your pocketbook, too. 😉
Here are my top five tips for working with silk threads…
Make sure the edges of your canvas are bound.
Artist’s tape or dressmaker’s seam binding work quite well. Silk will snag very easily on even the slightest rough spot. Covering the edges of your project will protect your precious threads. And if you stitch on a wooden frame, make sure there aren’t any rough spots on it.
Speaking of rough spots, your hands can be the source of more trouble…
especially in the wintertime. I like to use a salt scrub on my hands a few times a week to keep them smooth. My favorite is Isle of Luxe Glowing Body Polish. But if you want to make your own salt or sugar scrub, click here for a variety of easy recipes.
Additionally, I use a thick, rich hand cream every night before I go to bed. Mama gives me a new tube of Ahava every year for Christmas (a little goes a long way!) and I pick up a tube whenever I can find it. Of course, you’ll want to be sure your hands are clean before you begin working on your project, too.
Use a new needle whenever you start a new project.
Yep – you read that right! Your needle is one of the most important tools that you’ll use in your needlepoint hobby. And needles are relatively inexpensive, so go ahead and “splurge” on a new one whenever you begin a new project. Be sure you’re using the right size needle for your canvas, too. There’s not much worse than using a rusty, bent needle that’s the wrong size for the canvas mesh that you’re stitching.
And be sure to tune in at 3:00 p.m CST this afternoon to Needlepoint TV where I’ll share some more tips about needles! (If you’re reading this after Thursday, February 13, 2020, please visit the Serendipity Needleworks YouTube channel to watch the recording. And while you’re there, click the red subscribe button so you’ll get a notice every time something new is posted!)
Use short pieces of thread to ensure maximum shine!
Yes, I know it’s tempting to cut long pieces, but your silk thread may begin to look shabby if you take this short-cut. The more a thread passes through the canvas, the more wear and tear it receives – and the more likely it is to begin to fray and get fuzzy. Ideally, your thread should be between 15″ and 18″ long. And remember to stop and let your needle dangle every so often to allow your thread to return to its natural twist. Finally, use a laying tool if you’re working with stranded threads, like Splendor or Soie d’Alger.
Use common sense when caring for silk
Silk has a reputation for being delicate, but it’s actually one of nature’s strongest fibers. It’s also notorious for being “dry-clean-only”. While it’s true that silk really does respond better to dry cleaning, it’s highly unlikely that anything you stitch will need to be dry-cleaned on a regular basis. If you’re interested in learning more about caring for silk fibers, click here. Please don’t let the fear of high maintenance deter you from using silk thread on your needlepoint projects. It’s such a joy to stitch with that I’m sure you’ll be a convert soon if you’re not already. 😉
My all-time favorite silk thread is, undoubtedly, Splendor by Rainbow Gallery.
It’s super easy to work with and it comes in a rainbow (teehee!) of luminescent colors. I especially like to use it on 18 mesh canvas with a #22 tapestry needle.
What’s your favorite silk thread? Tell me in the comments box below and I’ll enter your name into this month’s drawing for a Valentine Bouquet of thread.
Alrighty, my friend, that’s all for now. Have a wonderful rest of your day and I’ll see you on the Serendipity Needleworks Facebook page this afternoon (and every Thursday!) at 3:00 p.m. CST for another new episode of Needlepoint TV.
Until then, happy stitching!