Over the centuries, silk thread has been particularly favored for fine embroidery for a number of reasons, but the dominant reason is this: it is a naturally beautiful thread. No other fiber compares to silk for its natural, age-defying beauty.
Most cotton embroidery threads have a sheen to them. But under the glaring eye of Time, that sheen – which is chemically produced through a process called mercerization – fades. Not so with silk!
The natural sheen of silk is especially beautiful because of the way light plays off it. I’ll show you what I mean, while we chat about a project I’m working on.
These are the silk embroidery threads I’ve half-way chosen for this project. Why half-way chosen? Well, I’m not certain I’ll use all of them. But whatever silk threads I do use, I’ll be choosing from this line-up.
On the right side of the photo are the blues. The skeined threads are Soie d’Alger, a stranded spun silk. Spun silk is made from the “leftovers” of the silk cocoons (or from broken cocoons), after the long, fine filaments of silk have been pulled from them. The fibers in spun silk are … well… spun, much like most other fibers are spun into thread. Spun silk has a soft luster to it. It is not the same high sheen that is found on filament silk made from the long filaments pulled from whole silk cocoons, but it is still luster. It still shines softly.
The thread on the spools is Soie de Paris, which is a softly twisted filament silk. If you look at the spools in the photo above, you can see the difference in the sheen – the thread on the spools really shines!
In the project I’m working on, I’m using the two blues highlighted above, predominantly. In fact, I’m not even sure I will use the other blues in either photo. Although the project has been underway for a while, I’m still feeling my way through it!
I can’t reveal the whole project just yet, because it’s actually for publication in a book (not by me). When the book gets closer to publication (and assuming the project ends up in it – who knows? The publishers may think again when they see the finished work!), you’ll be able to see more of it. But in the meantime, anything I share with you has to be in bits. This, unfortunately, is the conundrum I’m facing: when writing a needlework blog, how do I maintain articles for my own website, while writing things for other people, too? It’s not easy!
But while stitching these types of “side projects,” I find myself thinking of topics I want to share with you, that the projects aptly illustrate. And hence, here we are at today’s discussion on silk.
It isn’t really the silk thread in skeins and on spools that I want to show you. It’s the silk thread in action!
I’m filling these swashes you see in the photo above with the Soie de Paris, using long and short stitch. I’ve only used the medium and the dark blue – the dark blue right at the tip of the swash, and the rest of the swash is that brilliant, bright blue. It is blue-blue. It’s a difficult blue to explain. Perhaps there is an artistic, technical term for it, but if so, I don’t know it. It’s not sky blue. It’s not green-blue. It could almost lean towards what people might call an “electric” blue – but it isn’t. It’s just blue. True blue. And it is a beautiful color of blue!
But, it all depends on how the light hits the silk! In the photo above, the light is coming straight on to the blue, and the camera is looking straight at it.
And in this photo above, the camera is off to the left side.
Here, the camera has moved to the right side.
And here, the light source has changed slightly – it’s later in the evening, so the room is not as bright. The camera is farther away from the embroidery, and the flash is on.
Here, the distance from the embroidery is the same as in the previous photo (the cropping changes the size of the photo), but the angle of the embroidery frame is slightly different. The flash is still on.
The camera doesn’t see things exactly as the naked eye sees them (sometimes, it sees them better!), but in general, this is exactly what happens when I move the embroidery frame around and tilt it at different angles – the changing angle of light on the thread changes the look of the thread. Other fibers do this, but they don’t do it to the same extent that silk does!
If you have the opportunity to play with some real silk thread, see what the light does to it while you stitch! You’ll start to notice that stitch direction, stitch type, and thread type can work together to produce different visual effects, thanks to the way light gets involved with them.
What about you? Are you a silk thread fan? If so, what’s your favorite silk for embroidery? What do you like best about using silk? If you’re new to embroidery and you haven’t ventured into silk yet, do you have any questions about using silk that the rest of us might be able to help you with? Feel free to discuss anything silk-thread-related, or to pose any questions or make suggestions, using the comment form below!
Tomorrow, a give-away! For all you Morris fans out there, all quilt lovers, all textile enthusiasts, and embroiderers, I’ll be giving away two beautiful William Morris Appliqué calendars for 2013! They’re really lovely! So look out for that.
See you tomorrow!