Silk embroidery floss is perhaps one of the most pleasurable and beautiful threads to work with, and there are a variety available on the market. When I’m looking for “flat” silk, though, it isn’t as easy to come by. Even the shops that carry, for example, Soie Ovale only carry select colors, and you have to wait for a special order if you want something out of the ordinary. I’ve compared two flat silks here, with photos, so that you can “see before you buy.”
First of all, what is flat silk? Well, in my book it’s untwisted silk embroidery threads or “amost-untwisted” (with a very subtle twist). Your standard stranded embroidery floss, if you look at it closely, has a twist to it that holds the even smaller strands together. This stuff comes in cotton, silk, rayon, linen…. etc. But the untwisted silk lies flat (more or less), and, as far as threads go, has the highest “natural” sheen, which will last for years and years and years and years. That’s the nature of silk.
Compared to rayon floss (which is also shiny), the flat silk is somewhat easier to work with. The silk is also, in my opinion, “richer” – and the fact that it’s a natural fiber is also a big sell point for me.
So, in searching for flat or nearly flat silk over the years, the only two “standard” brands I’ve ever found are the Au Ver a Soie (Soie Ovale) and the Eterna Stranded silk, which has very little twist to it. Apparently, Kreinik also, once upon a time, sold a flat silk called Soie Platte, which was also the former name of Soie Ovale by Au Ver a Soie. On some websites, I’ve seen Kreinik Soie Platte listed, but it’s not on their official website. Now, I don’t know – I think there must’ve been some kind of cufuffle about four or five years ago, because I recall Kreinik’s label on the Soie d’Alger stuff in some shops back then. Perhaps it was a marketing glitch of some sort? Who knows!
So I’ve found only two readily available “flat” silks, and I thought I’d show you the difference between them with photos. Sometimes it’s just nice to see what you’re ordering….
First off, Soie Ovale is pretty much non-divisible, unless you want to go to a whole lot of careful trouble. The Eterna silk divides into 12 strands.
Up close, this is the end of the Soie Ovale.
And these are the ends on the Eterna. Notice there’s barely a hint of a twist.
This is the “body” of the Soie Ovale. It’s very smooth.
And this is the “body” of the Eterna. Note the twist – the strands twist together, but when they are separated, they are not individually as twisted.
Soie Ovale comes on a spool, with 15 meters per spool. There are 59 colors made, but I’ve only ever seen 54 available (some by special order) in American shops.
Eterna comes in a hank (not a pull skein – you have to take the sleeve off and snip off the knot and unwind the length you desire from the hank). There are 5 meters per hank, and it comes in 545 shades.
Basically, you get 3 times as much thread on the Au Ver a Soie spool, but I’ve found that 4 or 5 strands of Eterna, when worked with a laying tool, cover about the same space as one strand of Soie Ovale, so I think that the amount of coverage for the hank and the spool is pretty close to the same.
The price difference is kind of interesting: $2.50 – $3.35 for the Soie Ovale, depending on where you’re ordering it, while the Eterna runs $0.95 per little hank.
Which thread do I like better? The Soie Ovale is lovely – it’s so nice to work with and is such a rich, smooth silk. I like it best. BUT – for the price and for the color range, you can’t really beat the Eterna. I’m not an expert in silk and its qualities as a fiber, so I don’t know which one is “scientifically” better! If anyone knows, I’d love to hear about it.
You can find the best ready selection of Soie Ovale online at Needle in a Haystack, where it’s $3.35 / spool. Update 2021: Eterna is discontinued.
Hope that’s helpful! I’d love to hear from others who have had experience with flat silks or who know of another brand available. I’m always game to try anything!