It was a post on Facebook last week that generated plenty of comments, both agreeing and disagreeing. As long-time readers of this blog know, I used to feel this way as well. One disastrous encounter with a silk thread and you are ready to swear it off for life.
No other fiber gets this bad rap, except possibly rayon. If we find one thread difficult to use do we write off all other threads from this fiber?
I think it because when silk threads are difficult, they are very difficult and stitchers can’t figure out how to overcome the problem. It’s easy to think the difficulties are with silk, the fiber, and not with Brand X, the thread. But let’s think about it.
Problems with silk fall into three categories. First, the thread snags. This happens with smooth, shiny single-strand silks such as Trebizond. It happens for three reasons. First, your hands are too dry. Try lotion, that might help. Many folks who work with silk threads use lotion every time they stitch. Second, these threads use filament silk. This is the highest quality of silk and it has extremely thin, extremely long fibers. They are fragile and will hook, creating the snags. Third, the silk fiber has tiny hooks in it. Remember it’s from a cocoon and the strands are supposed to attach to each other. These hooks also attach to anything that is the least bit rough and snag the yarn.
Second, the thread might tangle. This happens with stranded threads. Blame those hooks again.
Third, the strands might be too thin. Try to separate them and you get a mess. Not only is it the hooks, but also the silk fiber is very thin and strong. Many of these separate strands are spun together to make the plies of the thread. Depending on the thread and manufacturer, the plies can be very thin or not. The plies are then twisted into strands, making something thicker. Even so these they still may be very thin.
The solution is not to give up silk, but to change the silk you use. Some all-silk threads are very stitcher-friendly. Try these if you have never used silk before or if you’ve had a bad experience.
If you have had problems with snagging, look for more matte silks. If you’ve been using Kreinik’s Silk Serica and need the same color, consider using their silk floss, Silk Mori. If shine is critical to your project, consider a silk/metallic blend such as Silk Lame, or a shiny silk pearl, like Gloriana’s Princess Pearl, which does not snag for me.
If you have had problems with tangling, look to single-strand silk or other brands of silk floss. I have found the tendency to tangle really varies from brand to brand. Silks that are composed of three four-strand bundles, such as Splendor, Gloriana’s silk floss, or Thread Gatherer’s Silk n’Colors. Other brands of silk floss that you might find less prone to tangling are Dinky Dyes and Planet Earth’s 6-strand Silk. I rarely have problems with any of these brands.
Be aware that “12-strand silk floss” has strands the same thickness as cotton floss, “12-strand silk” has significantly thinner strands and is not a suitable substitute here.
If you have had problems with too thin threads you are probably trying to separate either filament silk or 12 strand silk. The easiest solution is to find a single-strand silk that will cover. You’ll learn about these phenomenal threads in the next section.
The Best Silks for Beginners
A silk that comes in a single strand is a God-send for stitchers. It avoids many of the problems encountered with other kinds of silk, while being incredibly easy to use. These threads have become very popular. They easily introduce you to the joys of stitching with silk.
Many companies make this type of silk and I’ll highlight several of the most popular.
Grandeur and Elegance from Rainbow Gallery are silk pearls. They are similar in size to #5 and #8 pearl cotton, “pearl” being a designation for a particular type of thread construction. The colors are dyed to match Splendor and use the same color numbers.
Silk Lame is the other Rainbow Gallery single-strand silk. It comes in three sizes and is a silk and metallic blend.
Planet Earth Silk from Planet Earth is a soft single-strand silk. It is easy-to-use and works on both 14 and 18 mesh. I find it similar in size to Silk & Ivory but with more of a subtle shine. They also make a version that has some metallic added to it.
Vineyard Silk Classic from Vineyard Silks is another soft single-strand silk, similar in size and characteristics to Planet Earth Silk. There are also silk/metallic and variegated versions of this thread from Vineyard. Threadworx makes an overdyed version of this thread as well.
Pepperpot Silk from Planet Earth is thinner than Planet Earth Silk and not as fluffy. It is made for 18-mesh canvas and is slightly fuzzy. It comes in solid and variegated colors.
I love these single-strand silks and I use them whenever I can.
If you have been turned off by silk threads in the past or if you want to try to stitch with silk, try these fantastic threads. You’ll fall in love!