Silks in Hardanger

Can you use silk threads for Hardanger embroidery? It is certainly possible to use "unoriginal" threads – after all, hardly anyone still uses linen threads, as far as I know. Most Hardanger nowadays is stitched using perle cottons, and jolly useful they are, too, with their twisted texture and lovely shine. So why not silks?

I realise that some people will turn the question around. Seeing that perle cottons do the job so well, they ask "Why silks?" To a thorough-going silk nut like myself this hardly qualifies as a valid question. Silks don’t need a reason. Like Mount Everest, you use silks Because They Are There. Not, perhaps, for each and every project, but when you feel like a bit of luxury.

There are a few things to consider before deciding on silks. First of all, they can be quite expensive, and although some aren’t too bad, others can easily go up to £6.50 a skein. It all adds up, as they say! Still, as an occasional treat that can probably be got over, especially when you choose a design that won’t use more than a skein of only a few colours.

But there are other factors that will influence your decision, mainly the question which bits of the design you want to use the silks for. Several Mabel’s Fancies designs use stranded silk for adding a little touch of luxury (the Floral Tiles, for example), but that is usually confined to surface stitching – Rhodes stitches, satin stitches and so on. Very pretty, of course, and very satisfying to do, but would it be possible to use silk for the actual Hardanger bits, the Kloster blocks and bars and fillings?

The trouble with Kloster blocks especially is that they work best when stitched with single-strand, relatively thick threads. When stitched with multiple strands of stranded cotton, for example, they tend to look a bit messy and a lot flatter than those nice plump perle Kloster blocks we’ve come to know and love. Bars (be they woven or wrapped) are difficult to get even and smooth using stranded threads. Unfortunately, most silks on the market are stranded silks, or if they are indivisible, they tend to be too thin to be of any practical use in Hardanger (unless you opt for a 40ct linen or finer to work on – not for the faint-hearted, that).

So all is lost, then? Don’t you believe it. Having whetted your appetite, next time I will be telling you about … *drumroll* … Silk Perles!

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