Silk, silk…

I have got a new embroidery book. Yes, another one. Shush. Anyway, it is all Mary Corbet’s fault for writing yet another irresistible review. It will no doubt be very useful for the Silk Shading module of the RSN Certificate, but really that’s just an excuse. In fact it seemed to be the sort of informative and beautifully illustrated book that would be worth having and reading even if you never stitched anything from it – and so it turned out to be. Background information about pollinators, instructions for needlepainting, and lots and lots of lovely photographs of the exquisitely stitched projects. I love it.

Victoria Matthewson's needlepainting book Information about the plants and pollinators stitched in the book Very detailed photographs illustrate the needlepainting process

It joins Tanya Bentham’ Opus Anglicanum book on my current browsing pile, and they make a dangerous pair – because they mention various silks and materials that I now want to try out!

Do you remember Ethelnute the Opus Anglicanum king? He was stitched using Silk Mill silk, which like the ones mentioned in Tanya Bentham’s book is a filament silks, made from unbroken silk reeled off the cocoon of the silk worm (which is why some suppliers call it “reeled silk”). It is beautifully shiny, but not as flat as the ones Tanya uses, so the sheen on those should be even more spectacular.

Ethelnute mounted on his satin box

I’d never heard of tram silk, but it sounded rather interesting, so I ordered a taster pack through Tanya’s site. You can get full reels from the suppliers she mentions in her book, the Handweavers Studio, but getting a reasonable range of colours plus postage would be quite expensive, which led me to go for Tanya’s mixed pack of smaller cops. Exasperatingly, I received the book with its link to Handweavers the Monday after returning from London, where on one of my walks I passed through the street where their shop is without knowing it! Oh well, I will now have a few more shades to play with plus two fabrics I hadn’t used before which I popped into my shopping basket to make the most of the postage: ramie, a fine linen-like fabric, and a lovely soft wool fabric used for Bayeux-style embroidery.

A lovely range of tram silk colours and two fabrics Ramie fabric Wool fabric

Talking of fabrics, the Pollinator book mentions a fabric that I looked at on one of the stands at the Knitting & Stitching Show, a silk/cotton blend. I nearly bought a fat quarter and then decided against it because I didn’t know what I’d use it for. Sigh.

Back to silk. The other one that caught my attention was the silk produced in various weights by DeVere Yarns, especially when I found that it was mentioned in both my recently acquired books – quite a recommendation!

DeVere silks mentioned in the Pollinators book

I’d heard of DeVere Yarns before, and I’m fairly certain I’ve seen them at previous Knitting & Stitching Shows, but somehow I hadn’t tried their threads before. They are a family business and extremely helpful: when I decided to buy one of their Colour Packs but felt that it needed an extra shade between the dark and the medium blue they had a look at the colours while we were on the phone, then called me back later after they’d had a look in better light and found the right shade to go with the pack. Not only that, when I ordered that extra silk in a different weight from the pack they emailed me to ask whether that order was correct, and when the parcel arrived it included a sample card of their various silks and other threads as a bonus – very good service indeed.

The Pastel Palette with the extra shade How the extra shade fits in A sample card

You may think that all this is quite enough silk for anyone, but there has been more silken activity in the Figworthy household. No, I’ve not been growing my own silkworms – we haven’t got a mulberry tree. All will be revealed in the next FoF…

PS – I will admit to feeling slightly uncomfortable about filament silk because the moth is not allowed to hatch; at some point I will have to decide where I stand on that. Spun silk (which is not quite so strong and has a less exuberant sheen but looks beautiful in its own way and is very nice to work with) is made from the shorter remnants of the cocoon that are left after the moth has chewed its way out, and is therefore blissfully unproblematic; it’s not even taking something from the moth that it could conceivably still want (like honey from bees). Definitely the more worry-free silk.

2 comments on “Silk, silk…

  1. I’ve dealt with both DeVere and Handweavers over the years and can vouch that they are great companies that look after their customers, even singletons like ourselves. Their worsted wool (for embroidery and weaving) is a treat and the colours are lovely. Didn’t realise Handweavers supplied filament silk. As you say, that’s an ethical dilemma for all users of the product. Much depends on whether spun silk’s hatched moth is allowed to carry through it’s reproductive cycle after hatching or whether the producers dispatch most of the moths anyway — the idea being to produce a less expensive (but still luxury) item. And I don’t have any idea about that. Wonder if Tanya does?

  2. Worth asking anyway, thanks – I hadn’t even contemplated that they might then catch the moths! Surely if they plan to kill them afterwards anyway they might as well not let them hatch and make a product they can sell for more?

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