In stitching talk, silk gauze is not exactly what it sounds like – it isn’t gauzy, light silk that might be used to make a filmy, floating scarf. In the stitchery world, “silk gauze” is a kind of canvas – a miniature canvas, in fact, onto which you can embroider (usually in counted techniques) little things. Silk gauze is made out of filament silk, which makes a very strong, very fine canvas, and while it comes in lower holes per inch (as low as 18), it is probably better known in its higher holes-per-inch counts, as it is prized by those who love to do miniature work.
Silk gauze is similar to a needlepoint canvas, in that it is measured in “holes per inch” rather than “threads per inch” (which is how most counted embroidery fabric is measured).
Silk gauze can be found in Very High thread counts – as high as 112 holes per inch. (No matter how good your eyes may be, I suspect you’d have to use magnification at 112 HPI!) The more commonly used sizes of silk gauze range from 40 HPI (holes per inch) up to 72. 40 & 48 HPI silk gauze is fairly easy to come by. 60, 72, and higher require some serious hunting for specialty suppliers.
On silk gauze, especially higher count silk gauze, the recommend stitch to use is the tent stitch.
Now, why am I talking about silk gauze all of a sudden? Well, it’s not as if I haven’t talked about it on Needle ‘n Thread before. You might remember that last year, I worked this miniature embroidery project, practically in 15 minute-or-so increments, until it was finished. It was a great little project to work in short increments!
But… that’s not what we’re talking about here.
I’ve started a different silk gauze project. This one defies standard notions of embroidery on silk gauze. I’m trying silk gauze as a ground fabric for something that it’s not normally used for – and I’ll tell you what, later.
For now, I’ll just show you how I set up a piece of silk gauze for stitching, especially if: a. the project is going to take a little bit of time; b. the project is somewhat larger than normal; or c. I need very good tension for the type of stitchery I’m planning to do. In this particular case, the reason for setting up this particular piece of silk gauze the way I’m setting it up is c – because I need firm, consistent tension on the gauze.
First, you need your piece of silk gauze. I’m just using a smallish scrap piece, to test my theory. It’s about 2.5″ high and about 3.5″ wide. Second, you need a piece of good, high thread count muslin cut to fit the size of the stretcher bar frames (or hoop) that you’re going to use.
With the smaller piece of silk gauze centered on the muslin, machine stitch around the edge of the silk gauze. You can also overstitch the edge of the silk gauze by hand, but it’s much easier to do it on a machine if you can. Use a zig-zag stitch or overlock stitch, if you have an overlock foot. If you have a serger, you can use it.
You can see the machine stitching here, over the edge of the silk gauze and into the muslin.
After you’ve sewn the silk gauze to the muslin, turn the muslin over, and in the area behind the gauze, snip a tiny little hole in the muslin. If you pinch the muslin so that it is separate from the silk gauze, you can do this easily without snipping the gauze.
Using a fine small pair of embroidery scissors, slip the scissors carefully into the hole, keeping the blades in contact with the muslin and avoiding coming into contact with the silk gauze. Carefully cut away the muslin behind the silk gauze, up to your machine stitching.
Now you have a little open window in your fabric, behind the silk gauze, and you have a piece of fabric that can easily be held taut, either by a hoop…
… or, in this case, for this project, by a stretcher bar frame.
Now, you’re ready to start stitching! Errr…. after getting out that magnifying lamp that you know you need!
I’ll show you what I’ve done with this little thing later on. You can see there’s a small monogram on it, but you’ll have to wait to see what I do with that monogram. I’ve only just begun to play around with it.
And if my trial-and-error stitching is a dismal failure, never fear! I’ll still show it to you! That way, we can all live and learn, eh?
Tomorrow, I’m doing a book give-away, so do drop by! See you then!