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Batiste de Soie

Going alphabetically, batiste de soie is the way to start with silk weaves.  The Fairchild Books Dictionary of Textiles lists Batiste de Soie as “a sheer silk fabric, plain or figured, resembling silk mull (p. 48).”

Batiste is itself a weaving technique, named after the 13th century linen weaver Jean Baptiste.  Batiste pulls directly from his name, with this particular fabric translating as “batiste of silk.”  Batiste was originally a very fine, diaphanous fabric, most commonly these days woven in cotton or poly/cotton blends. But it can be found in silk!  In All About Silk, author Julie Parker says “it is similar in weight and hand to china silk, but authentic batiste is more tightly woven, more lustrous, and of better quality (p. 14).

Here, I disagree with Ms. Parker.  My disagreement is a wholly practical matter, having to do with history.  Fragments of plain woven silk have been found in Henan Province, China, dating to 3500 BCE.  Frankly speaking, China had a jump start on European silk weaving of nearly 4000 years.  It was another 800 years after that (the 13th Century) before Jean Baptiste even invented his light weaving technique.  To say that the French weave silk better than the Chinese simply because they are French is, to me, illogical.  Simply put, the Chinese do their cultural heritage (silk weaving) better than the French do.

Now, this is not to say the French don’t weave some gorgeous silks (hello….Lyons? The 18th Century?)  But for a plain weave silk, I do prefer China Silk (and not just because we sell it.)  It’s that the differences listed in Parker’s book are superficial.  She lists that China silk is “available in a wide range of colors, while Batiste de Soie is bleached white or dyed pastel shades.”  Truly, if handed a piece of 8MM Batiste de Soie and 8MM China Silk, both in white, you would not be able to tell the difference…well, possibly with a microscope.  Both are light weight, plain woven, and reversible.  And ultimately, there is that 4000 year head start on the rest of the world when it comes to silk weaving that leaves China as the true king of this craft.  And quality is so often a matter of opinion.

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Screen 2

Screen 2

This will be a very short post, since there really isn’t much to Screen 2 on the Baby Lock Destiny 2.  There are three options, only two of which have meaning at this point, since I am nowhere near page 82 and using a dual foot controller (yes…I’m a bit intimidated by that).

Really, the main take away is that you can set the start position for your needle.  Factory setting has it starting from a left alignment position.  This would be because the seam marker has the 5/8 allowance measured from the left position.  If you prefer to start with the needle in the center position, it’s totally cool.  That is a matter of personal preference.  Just remember that the 5/8 inch mark is from the left position.  If you use that to line up your fabric, you will only be getting a 1/2 inch seam allowance.

The other option is for quilting versus straight stitch.  Since I’m not quilting yet, there wasn’t much for me to do there, either.

So here is the VERY short video for screen 2, to go with this VERY short blog post on the subject.

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Cleaning and Maintaining Our Silks

The Care and Feeding of Silk, Dry Clean Only

I’ve been trying to post on Tuesdays a stain removal.  Unfortunately, the stain I’m currently working on is exceptionally stubborn, so I have no video to post.  But in keeping with a cleaning theme, I decided to post what we use to clean silk, and why we use those things.  This seems like a reasonable substitute for stains.  So here is what we use for cleaning and maintaining our silks.

I’m going to start with Dr. Bronner’s Baby Unscented Liquid Soap.  I use this to pre-wash my silk before cutting and after events for a light clean.  This is VERY gentle soap, but it will remove excess dye from the fabric, which is good, since then you don’t have to worry about the dye rubbing off on your skin.  Also good since once the excess dye is gone, you have a piece of washable silk.  Minimally effective on stains, I mean, it worked on beer and mostly on marinara, but it is not a heavy hitter when it comes to stain fighting.  For that, I use Dawn.

Yes, Dawn dish detergent—that Dawn.  My logic when I first tried it was that it was safe for baby ducks, it was probably safe for silk.  I have not been proven wrong in this.  Given that I do pre-wash all my silk before sewing, I have never had Dawn cause a color bleed.  I DESTROYED the grease stain while leaving the silk as supple and soft as ever.  I love Dawn.

Vinegar.  Just plain white vinegar (NOT apple vinegar).  Aside from being a catch all cleaner for the natural home, vinegar restores luster and shine to silk.  I put a cup in every load of laundry.  Every. Single. Load.  It is that good for silk.

Baking Soda has been used once, but it is a power house at smell removal.  Yes, smell removal.  See my blog on cat pee and silk.  Have used salt as a mild abrasive on certain stains, and even contact lens remover.  These are all one off items, used for very specific stains.  Generally, if you have Dr. Bronner’s, Dawn, and Vinegar, you’re in good shape as far as silk care goes for the home couturier.  And as always, if you’re unsure, dry clean is an option.

Thank you for reading Damask Raven, where we do History in Style.

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What’s in a Weave?

Amethyst Glass Silk Satin

In a blog post earlier this year, I asked the question What’s that Fiber?  I provided a brief list of different fibers, then a slightly more thorough detailing of the three different weaving techniques most commonly used.  I’m going to write a (long) series of posts describing what specifically each weave is.  The three weaves are Plain, Twill, Satin.  But there is TREMENDOUS variety within those three categories.  So what’s in a weave?

Just in a silk fiber, plain weaving is used to create Batiste de Soie, Broadcloth, Chiffon, China Silk, Cloque, Crepe, Crepe de Chine, Dupioni, Four Ply, Georgette, Habotai, Matka, Noil, Organza, Peau de Soie, Pongee, Shantung, Taffeta, and Shot Silk.  Seriously!  All of those DIFFERENT fabrics utilize a plain weave to create different drape, different hand, different look.  Which says remarkable things about the ingenuity of Man.  And none of that includes weaves that are specific to cotton, wool, or linen!

Utilizing a Twill weaving technique creates Gabardine, Surah, and Tweed.  Satin is it’s own weave, but you use satin techniques to create brocade, charmeuse, damask, and matelasse.  And silk can be knitted!

Plain weave, as defined by The Fairchild Books Dictionary of Textiles 8th Edition, is as follows:

Simplest and most important of the three basic weaves, used in about 80% of all woven fabric…is executed by passing each filling yarn successively over and under each warp yarn, alternating each row (p. 463).

plain weave
Like this. This is a blown up, close example, of what a plain weave is.

EIGHTY PERCENT OF ALL WOVEN FABRICS!  That’s a pretty big number!  Also means the variety found in plain weaving is a result of thread spin, and treatment.

Twill’s, according to Fairchild, are “A basic weave characterized by a diagonal rib, or twill line, generally running upward from left to right…Each end floats over or under at least two consecutive picks (p. 643).

Twill weave
Basic twill weave

The third most common weave is Satin. From Fairchild, “A smooth, generally lustrous fabric, with a thick, close texture made of silk…Generally, there is a higher number of yarns on the face than the back (p. 531).  With Satin, the face of the fabric is very smooth and lustrous, while the back is dull with no shine.  A blown up line drawing of a warp faced satin would look like this:

Warp faced Satin
Warp faced Satin

So that’s a little better explanation of what’s in a weave.  Future posts will go in to each particular weave and explain the differences between china silk and batiste de soie, chiffon and organza.

Until next time…

Welcome to Damask Raven…where we do History in Style

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Screen 1

Screen 1

Learning to use the Baby Lock Destiny II is actually fairly simple.  I’m not JUST using it for the camera, and I have figured out the basics of threading, winding a bobbin, changing needles and presser foots (feet?), and embroidery functions.  The frighteningly long manual is another kettle of fish.  To quote Beetlejuice, it’s like reading stereo instructions.

Continuing on with how the manual is laid out, I start of The Machine and follow the little pictures in the manual to get to machine setting Screen 1.  Then it gets a little more convoluted, as the instructions included on screen one include features not used until pages 131, 174, and 72 respectively.  It wasn’t a wasted sojourn though.  The Manual at this stage also includes how to adjust the presser foot height, and presser foot pressure.

Pressure foot height is a matter of preference, for the most part.  I like  a lot of clearance when the presser foot comes off a project.  You may not.  They basically have a low, middle, and high ground for this option.  Choose what you like and go from there.  The only reason to adjust up or down would be density of fabric for any given project.

Density of fabric can also play a roll with the presser foot pressure.  The manual says explicitly that the higher the number the greater the pressure.  Factory setting and average is three.  If you are working with particularly dense or heavy fabric, then bump that number up to four.  If you are working with something really lite and airy that you don’t want getting snagged on the feed dogs, drop it to a one or two.  As always, if you’re not sure, experiment with scrap fabric before working on your project.

Learning those two things was worth the stereo-like confusion.  Plus, when I GET to pages 131, 174, and 72 I now know which screen to go to to adjust those settings.  So I got that going for me.

Anyway, here is the video, if you want to follow along at home.

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Frixion Pens–Not quite invisible ink

Frixion pens...They Rock!

Almost a year ago, my mom gave me a pack of Frixion pens.  And she was very excited because if you mark fabric with the Frixion pens, then iron over the mark, the mark disappears.  This is SO COOL!  No more tracing paper!  No more wheels leaving pin pricks in your fabric!  No more uneven lines from the combination of wheel and paper!  I loved my Frixion pens instantly.

I love you Frixion pens
Seriously…it was that good

So I used my Frixion pens pretty heavily on all my projects.  In May I taught my Care and Feeding of Silk Class at West Kingdom’s Golden Beltane.  And one of the kind ladies told me of a rumor that if the fabric got cold…like, for example, during a long flight…the ink would come back.  Having not heard that I was immediately horrified.  I used these pens on EVERYTHING!  And the marks were gone!  Could it be true?

I don't love you -- Frixion pens
Yes….It was EXACTLY like that…

Fast forward a few months.  I did not mention the Frixion pens at Costume College because I needed to know the truth of the allegation before recommending their further use.  And I finally bit the metaphorical bullet and did my Frixion pen test.  And sadly, yes, the marks did come back.

Head desk...head desk...head desk...
Head desk…head desk…head desk…

But, as per usual at Damask Raven, I did not stop there!  The challenge then became, are the marks truly permanent?  No!  No they are not.  A minimal amount of effort and a little Dawn pulled the rest of the stain right out.  Why Dawn?  Well they are wax pens.  I figured if anything would cut through the fat base in wax it would be Dawn.  And I was right.

So yes!  Use Frixion pens.  They truly do make it easy.  Or don’t. Using even something as easily removable can be very nerve wracking and if your comfort level says tailor’s tacks, then use tailor’s tacks.  In the end, it’s all personal choice.

Thank you for reading, I hope this was useful.  Til next time…

Life is short.  Buy the fabric.

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The Manual

The Manual

Mother of God!  The Baby Lock Destiny II is a thing of beauty, a modern marvel that does more things than one would think, requiring an instruction manual that is 414 pages long.  FOUR HUNDRED AND FOURTEEN PAGES!  I was able to determine the basic sewing functions very quickly (like, the instructions are literally on the screen quickly).  However, I decided that to really maximize the glory that is this machine, I’d take it slow.  I would work my way through the manual one function at a time.  It was going to be one page at a time, but at 414 pages, that’s A LOT of recording time.

So I skipped the first 40 pages or so for the camera.  The first 40 pages include table of contents, inventory, what’s included, what’s NOT included…But is available for purchase at Baby Lock, of course.  I skipped the inventory list for the camera because pretty much everything included will at some point be used in the learning of the machine.

Then there’s that HUGE manual.  And no one wants to listen to me read the Table of Contents.  Especially not me.  I don’t even read the table of contents when I’m reading to myself.  Very much a fan of monkey see, monkey do method of learning.  To which I have a valuable learning experience I will share in due course.  But for now, this is the first video of the first page I wanted to read.


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Baby Lock Destiny II

Baby Lock Destiny 2

Following Costume College 2016, I took more of a hiatus than intended while I took care of some back of house stuff.  Inventory, website maintenance, storage, vending contracts… This all culminated with a birthday embroidery workshop weekend featuring the Baby Lock Valiant (I did NOT buy this machine…)

The event was hosted by local Baby Lock vendor, A1 Vacuum and Sewing, which is co-owned by Peter, Patrick, and Jeanne.  Now, my mom has been raving about Peter for years.  And apparently, she is not the only one, as hoards of ladies descended upon Peter en masse when he finally made his appearance at the workshop around 1pm on Friday.  And by the end of the weekend, I had joined the Peter Fan Club…

Damn your good salesmanship!
Damn your good salesmanship!







And ended up buying this:

Destiny II...could it be a sign?
Destiny II…could it be a sign?








In addition to loving Peter, my mom LOVES her Baby Lock Destiny I…and I got the II!

So today, I unpacked it…and there was A LOT to unpack.









Seriously, I don’t know what half this stuff is…something about a knee pedal?


What the hell is that for?!
What the hell is that for?!








And mystery boxes were everywhere…


Even MORE stuff!
Even MORE stuff!








I actually know what that is. Not the technical name (accessory tray maybe?), but I know where on the machine it goes, so that was a win.


How many manuals does this take?
How many manuals does this take?








It looks really scary, but one of those manuals is a picture guide for quick reference, the other is the written text, for word nerds like me.


Finally!  Out of the box!
Finally! Out of the box!








Whew!  Just unpacking was an adventure.  But I’ll figure this out.  And we’ll see how well Baby Lock handles silk 🙂

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Out out Damn Spot!

So this saga starts at Golden Beltane.  We were prepping our steaks for grilling when some wind kicked up and splashed some blood on my sleeve.  Because I am an idiot, I grinned.  Yay!  Blood stains!  And I didn’t have to donate them myself!

If you get blood on silk, move hell and high water to soak that stain immediately!  It can be done on a set in stain, but seriously, if the stain doesn’t get the chance to set, it is ever so much easier. Here is the progression.

Internet says to use salt water to break down the stain.  The stain looked at me like “Really?  That’s your A game?”

I try Dr. Bronner’s AND Dawn.  Just to see if basic detergent will work.  The Stain yawned.  I actually saw it yawn.

Internet says to try a little ammonia in water.  The Stain laughed at me.  It seriously laughed at me.

Internet says to try Hydrogen Peroxide.  The Stain gasps like Vigo the Carpathian and fades sullenly in to the background.  But does not disappear entirely.  And there we sat…deadlocked for three weeks.  I felt a great deal of kinship with Lady MacBeth during this time.

Then I start looking up how Dry Cleaner’s remove blood stains.  And among the list of ingredients is Protein Stain Remover. So I go to Amazon and type in Protein Stain Remover and it kicks back…Contact Lens Cleaner?  Yep!  Right on the box.  Protein Stain Remover.  Daily cleaners for contact lens wearers.  So I figure what the hell and next time I’m at the store I buy a bottle.

I’ll be damned if it didn’t work!  But…it worked off camera.  So then it became a new game between me and blood.  I stabbed myself many times and always got different results between Hydrogen Peroxide and Protein Stain Remover.

DISCLAIMER:  ALWAYS TEST ON AN INCONSPICUOUS AREA OF THE GARMENT FIRST!  I don’t want anyone to ruin their dress because they never pre-washed the fabric and the Hydrogen Peroxide lightens the dye under the stain, resulting in permanent discoloration.  On to the results!

As a general guideline, I found that if it’s a fresh stain, less than two hours old, the Protein Stain Remover works fine on it’s own.  You do have to work it in to the fabric a little bit, and you do have to wash with Dawn after, but it works.  The longer the stain sets, the more firepower you need.

So if the stain has set for several hours or longer, start with Hydrogen Peroxide.  Let the HP sit for at least twenty minutes.  Put some Dawn detergent directly on the area and rub it in.  Rinse thoroughly.  Now, if the stain has set for a significant length of time (Golden Beltane was in May…I didn’t try cleaning the silk until late July), you will need the next phase, which is the protein stain remover.  Be generous, rub it in, let it set for twenty minutes.  Wash again with Dawn.  Et Voila!  The Stain gasped it’s last and died like a George R. R. Martin character.

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Water Marks on Silk

Water Marks on Silk…you hate them, yet they inevitably appear.

While at costume college, I led a Q&A session on The Care and Feeding of Silk.  And it was awesome!  So much enthusiasm, the energy in the room was high, everyone was sharing tips and tricks.  I loved it.  But in the course of the class, I dropped (deliberately) a spot of water on a previously starched piece of Habotai.  I wanted to demonstrate exactly what water marking was and why it was no big deal.

And as the silk scrap made it’s way around the room, it dried, and someone eventually commented on the discoloration.  Which was fine.  The discoloration was literally the result of the starched area versus the un-starched area of silk.  And it gave me the chance to answer that water doesn’t stain.  Water is a neutral element.  Starch rinses out causing the discoloration.  No one believed me.  So when I got home, I made a video with starch and silk.

However, I was not satisfied.  While no harm came to the silk in this process, I felt I had missed something.  I showed you can rinse silk in water to remove surface starch.  So that was a win.  But mostly, as someone who likes to dance in the rain, I felt really bad for all my friends who love these big, floofy, 18th and 19th century dresses, having to huddle under umbrellas or else have to wash and starch their big floofy dresses anytime they get caught in a rain storm.  Because of water!  Water is a neutral element!  So I tried again…with a bigger surface area than that tiny scrap provided…

So good news for floofy dress wearers!  Feel free to dance in the rain….because you do not have to wash the whole dress to treat a few water marks.