It’s been a long time since I’ve embroidered a whole project in silk threads.
But the fact is, I love silk embroidery threads, and if I could, I’d embroider the entire world with silk thread!
So you can well imagine how excited I am to launch into another little (bigger) kaleidoscope project, this time worked entirely in silk. I’m in Hog Heaven – Silk Hog Heaven, that is!
I picked out a four-color, multi-shade palette to work with for this particular design. I found myself sucked into the project, dreaming about it at night and waking up extra early to get stitches in. You know how it is…
So, today I thought we could chat about these particular silk threads, because I love them so.
My favorite all-time line of silk threads comes from Au Ver a Soie, a French company whose threads are imported into the US through Access Commodities.
I love Au Ver a Soie’s threads for several reasons:
1. Their collection of Soie d’Alger is amazing. This is a stranded, spun silk that comes in some hundreds and hundreds of shades, making it perfect for all kinds of surface embroidery and counted work.
2. Besides Soie d’Alger, they have other types of silk threads – from twisted Soie Perlee (a heavier twisted filament silk), to Soie de Paris (a fine stranded filament silk) to Soie Ovale (a flat silk), to Silk Trame (which is new, and I wrote about it here), to Soie 100/3, which is perfect for tiny details and for machine work, to Soie Gobelin, also perfect for tiny details, and others – and all of them are coordinated color and number wise, which makes it easy to work across a given color scheme with different types of silk.
3. Their quality is unsurpassed in the thread market. While there are many other lines of threads – including silk threads – that I like a lot, when it comes to consistent, good quality silk embroidery thread, Au Ver a Soie can’t be beat. You won’t find slubs (lumps of thicker places) or inconsistencies in twist in their threads. They have a really high standard of quality control, and I appreciate that a lot!
The project I’m working on right now is all Soie d’Alger. This is Au Ver a Soie’s stranded spun silk.
Soie d’Alger (and any stranded, spun silk) works a lot like stranded cotton. Each thread as it comes off the skein is comprised of seven strands which can be separated from the whole bunch and used individually. Each strand is made up of two tiny plies of silk (these are not separated – they’re twisted together softly to make the strand).
One strand of Soie d’Alger works up slightly heavier than one strand of cotton floss. The silk is more softly twisted – and it’s softer in general – than cotton, so it has a different “spread” to it as you stitch, making it a little heavier on coverage.
Because it’s silk, Soie d’Alger has a beautiful, soft sheen.
While cotton’s sheen is chemically produced (through a process called mercerization), silk’s sheen is natural. It will never “un-sheen” over time. Silk, by it’s very nature, is “sheeny.” I don’t want to say it’s shiny, because “shiny” conjures up images of glare and maybe even garishness. The sheen from silk is never garish.
I guess you could call it shiny, but it’s not a fake-shiny. It’s a classy, luxurious shiny.
Soie d’Alger works well for practically any kind of common surface embroidery stitch.
Because of it’s soft spread, it makes an exceptionally beautiful satin stitch and long and short stitch. But it also makes a gorgeous chain stitch, stem stitch, fishbone stitch, backstitch, whipped stitches… really, any kind of stitch!
New to Silk Threads?
If you’re a newcomer to silk thread, Soie d’Alger is a great thread to start with. It’s structure is familiar, if you’re used to working with cotton floss.
In some ways, though, it’s slightly more fiddly to work with, compared to cotton.
Tips for Working with Silk
1. Smooth your hands. Silk tends to snag on rough hands. I like to use this olive oil and sugar scrub when I’m working with silk threads. I’ll usually give my hands a good scrub down with the stuff in the morning and evening whenever I’ve got a silk thread project going, depending on the state of my hands. And a moisturizer at night doesn’t go amiss, either.
2. Use shorter lengths of thread. When working with spun stranded silk especially, shorter lengths are ideal. I use approximately a 13 – 14″ length of thread when working with Soie d’Alger, cutting the thread the length of my forearm, from my fingers to my elbow. Anything longer can be frustrating, especially if the thread snags on anything. It’s always easier to prevent frustration than to deal with it if it comes along, so I always opt for shorter lengths of thread.
3. Wind any unused strands of silk floss back around the original skein or spool, so you can keep track of it. Don’t drop the unused lengths in with your orts while you’re working! Silk is expensive, and it’s a good idea to get the most you can out of every length and to keep track of unused strands!
Where to Find Soie d’Alger
You can find Soie d’Alger through any local needlework shop that carries products from Access Commodities. If they don’t have the thread in stock, you can often special order it.
Because I don’t have a local needlework shop, I order online.
More Information about Silk Threads
If you’d like to learn more about working with silk threads, here are some previous articles on Needle ‘n Thread that will help familiarize you with silk:
Working with Soie de Paris (and other filament silks)