Sewing on Silk

I finally took the plunge and am making a quilt with silk dupioni.  Or is chantung?  I can’t tell the difference.  I did a lot of research (so you’d think I’d know what kind of silk I have)prior to starting because this is a quilt that will go to an auction.  Is silk really practical since it can’t be washed?  I actually found that you can wash it before using it, and then the quilt is washable!  Score!  So I followed the directions from some portal on the internet.  But I did not like the results at all.  The fabric lost its sheen and body.  Imagine sewing on tissue paper that has been wadded up and then un-wadded.  Yeah, kind of like that.

So I decided that it’s okay not to have a washable quilt because you don’t wash your art.  You don’t even dry clean your art, but as luck would have it, you can dry clean this.  And that makes it all good.  

So here is what I learned in the process:

1.  Don’t wash your silk.

2.  Choose a pattern that does not require precision piecing because silk doesn’t press as well as cotton does, so when you cut it, the pieces aren’t exactly the size you’d want.  Or maybe you can, but it sure didn’t work for me.

  3.  Choose a pattern that does not need much handling (i.e.,very few pieces) because it will fray big time.  I’m telling you– every second counts.  If I had this to do over, I’d make a quilt with giant squares and then just do some fancy quilting in the squares. 

4.  Because of the fraying, you will want to use pinking shears to reduce the fraying.  It will not stop it, though.

5.  Use a microtex needle.  Because you should.

6.  If you have another choice, just don’t even use silk.

7.  Any other tips for working with silk?  Put them in the comments so we can all learn a thing or two.

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4 Responses to Sewing on Silk

  1. You are a brave soul! I can’t wait to see the final product though, those colors are so soothing!

  2. Suzanne says:

    OMG, did you wash both boxes? I had anticipated dry clean only. Did you pull some of the pieces out? Am anxious to see it.

  3. Dawn says:

    I’ve found that if I press the silk after washing, it restores some of the hand. It doesn’t get back to that crisp silk that I bring home from the store… but it’s better than the wadded-up tissue!
    Different silk weaves will react better with the fraying too. I get a LOT of fraying with low-quality dupioni, but less with better dupioni, and less yet with shantung, noil, etc. When I’m working with lower-quality dupioni (because the colour is amazing, etc…) and I’m going to be doing really small pieces – I use fusible interfacing first, then cut out the pieces themselves.

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