These are two completely different types of silk thread that share the same name.
So what is gimp, anyway? Gimp, in textile talk, is often a trim of some sort. If you look up “gimp trim” for sale today, you’ll generally find narrow individual cords or flat ribbon-like trim with a cord that runs through it in a decorative way.
In lace-making, gimp is the trim that outlines a lace element, and it can be tube-like looking (not actually a tube, but a smooth cording) or twisted, with a fine rope-like look. Gimp often has some sort of core running through it that helps “stiffen” it in a way. The core is wrapped or twisted with an outer thread. Sometimes (in the more heavy duty gimps), the core is a flexible wire, so that the gimp retains its shape when bent and manipulated. Sometimes, the core is another thread or cord. And some gimps are not made with a core.
So we can see that gimp in thread talk, when taken generally, can mean different things.
The silk gimp from Pipers Silks is sold for lace making, but because of its structure, it can actually be used for silk embroidery thread, and it works well this way for regular surface embroidery.
In the photo above, I’m using Pipers “twisted gloss silk gimp” (G73) in orange heather, to fiddle around a bit. Because it reminds me of autumn leaves, I tried a few leaf shapes with it. The large one on the right is made with a twisted chain stitch, surrounded by fly stitches down the shape of the leaf, and the others are detached chain stitch.
This stuff works pretty much like any twisted embroidery thread. Because it is a filament silk, it is a z-twisted thread, though, and this fact does make a difference in the way certain stitches come out.
In the photo above, the two lines illustrate this point. The top line, which looks like stem stitch, is actually outline stitch. The lower line, which looks like outline stitch, is actually stem stitch.
If you’re unfamiliar with the z-twist / s-twist difference in embroidery threads, there are a few articles here on Needle ‘n Thread that can clarify the subject for you. Essentially, all filament silk embroidery threads and rayon embroidery threads are z-twisted, and spun silk and cotton threads are s-twisted.
This is the 90/9 silk gimp in strawberry. It’s listed as “thick silk gimp,” but in fact, if you’re considering it as an embroidery thread, it’s a fairly fine thread. It’s a bit finer than a typical silk buttonhole twist. It handles a bit like silk buttonhole twist, but without being quite as boingy. I’d put it around the size of a #12 perle cotton, for the sake of comparison.
Pretty much, you’re looking at a tightly twisted filament silk thread that can be used for embroidery. My guess is that crazy quilters would really like this thread. At Pipers, it’s sold as a lace gimp and for tatting.
Again, all of these threads are z-twisted, so the top line of stitching there is outline stitch, and the lower line is stem stitch. Notice how the individual stitches in the lower line are not as discernible from each other, while the stitches in the top line are? That’s the difference in the look between outline stitch and stem stitch, but in this case, because of the twist of the thread, the outcome is actually reversed.
This is the “very thick gimp” (15/2) from Pipers silks. It makes a really nice, smooth satin stitch. It’s definitely a fatter thread, and it’s a much softer thread than the other gimps I tried. It has a much looser twist.
This is listed for lace making and tatting as well. I’m not too well-versed in tatting, but I can’t imagine tatting with a thread that’s quite this soft.
It’s a nice thread for embroidery – it reminds me of the looser twisted filament silks I’ve seen on vestments of old. But it’s only available in white!
It also reminds me a bit of Trebizond silk thread, but Trebizond is made from three plies, and this is made from only two. I’d compare this thread to somewhere between a #5 and #8 perle cotton.
I haven’t played yet with this silk gimp – but I will. It is the thread that intrigues me the most. It’s made from several plies of filament silk, in a very long, gradual twist that makes it look like a flat silk. The overall thread has a bit more stiffness to it than regular filament silk or flat silk, so I’m eager to see what it can do. I’ll try it out and show you later on!
Conclusions: The silk gimps from Pipers Silks can be used for hand embroidery. There’s no reason why they can’t be – they are basically twisted filament silk threads. Some of the gimps come in a limited range of colors, and some only come in white, black, or ecru. But if you want to try them out for your embroidery endeavors, take a look at them! I enjoyed stitching with them.