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Highway to Hell by way of the Silk Road

Summer Bloom Silk Satin

Today, I interviewed a Baptist Pastor.  For my day job.  This actually has nothing to do with silk, but the encounter was so startling, I forgot my own phone number, and so it should be recognized.

I could literally feel the hell fire and damnation pouring from his fingertips as we shook hands and I thought the flesh would melt from my face for having the audacity to enter The House Of God while living in a state of sin with my boyfriend.  I told same boyfriend I might have to take up a side gig as a prostitute just to rid myself of the righteous fires of indignation over the “Gay Agenda.”  Seriously.  His refusal to bow to “the Gays” was one of the selling points he offered up in trying to get me to Sunday services.

Luckily for me, I have several defenses against such fervor.  One, is an excellent poker face….that he may never know that his bigotry was enough to send me strolling down Fourth Street (Reno’s Red Light District, such as it is) in retaliation.  Two, the nature of my job makes distance from those I interview sort of a necessity.  Have to remain unbiased, hard to do so when sitting in the pew next to your subject.  Three…I have silk.

I love silk.  Not quite in the biblical sense (although I’m sure if I was really feeling the kink, it would be possible), but it is so delightfully decadent I am quite sure it’s discovery was an act of divine providence.  Silk doesn’t care if you are a sinner or a saint.  It can be ceremoniously chic like a wedding dress, or casually elegant like a caftan.  It slides smoothly over your skin, creating a lush barrier between you and the nature from which it springs.  It floats delicately in the air, kissing the breeze like a butterflies wings, or trails crisply behind you, the Scroop creating magical music while you dance, walk, sit, or stand.

Silk comes all the way from China (or India, or France, or Italy) purely to delight the senses.  The sound it makes as it comes off the bolt, the way it catches the light lustrously, the feel of it as it slides over my hands….THIS is the sin I revel in and it is a far more glorious example of God’s Light than that seen through the judgmental eyes of a Baptist Pastor.  I find such hatred hard to fathom.

And so I choose to surround myself with the things I love, rather than focusing on hate.  And I love Silk.  So I am detouring from The Highway to Hell by way of The Silk Road.  Because it makes me happy 🙂

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Origins

Long ago, the emperor Huang-di ruled China in a state of supreme wisdom and grace.  Huang-di brought such advancements to China as wooden houses, writing, carts, and boats and advanced Chinese warfare through the introduction of the bow and arrow.  Huang-di’s most honored first wife was the beautiful Lady Hsi-ling.  One day, while enjoying her tea in her garden, a cocoon fell from the mulberry tree beside her, landing in Hsi-ling’s tea.  Upon hitting the boiling water, the cocoon dissolved.  Enchanted, Hsi-ling attempted to remove the dissolved cocoon from her tea.  But as she began pulling the filaments out, she discovered the strand went on without end.  In this fashion was sericulture born.

 

At its most basic, sericulture is animal husbandry, dedicated to the selective breeding of the Bombyx mori moth.  The secrets of sericulture were so closely guarded, that border guards at China were authorized to, and would carry out with extreme prejudice, the sentence of death on anyone caught attempting to smuggle silk worms, silk cocoons, moths, or mulberry trees.  This sentence of death was carried out for centuries until the reign of Emperor Justinian of Byzantium, when a couple of monks managed to successfully smuggle a mulberry branch with two precious cocoons into Constantinople.  In this way was sericulture introduced to Eastern Europe.

 

Sometime after the introduction of sericulture to Byzantium, while trading with the Byzantine empire, the Viking’s were introduced to silk, which they used in both embroidery work and as decorative trim for their garments by 800 AD for sure.  We know this from the Oseberg burial mound which was uncovered in the early 1900’s in Oseberg Norway.  While excavating the burial mound, remnants of silk were found—however, the linen garment the trim had been attached to had eroded to nothing.  By way of the Vikings was silk first introduced to Western Europe.  By way of the Oseberg burial mound, we know that silk is considerably more durable than given credit for.

 

In 1095, Pope Urban II called for the first great crusade to return the Holy Land from the Saracen’s to Christian control.  When they returned from Jerusalem by way of Syria, the crusaders brought with them a new type of silk, woven in a combination of satin and plain weave which created tone on tone patterns, called Damask Silk for Damascus, Syria, the region most famous for it’s manufacture.  In this way was silk as a true luxury item introduced en masse to the Western countries national zeitgeist, and the wearing of silk became a status symbol and expected of the wealthy classes and nobility.

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Finn is Great!

I’m watching The Force Awakens at home, and at the very end, the boyfriend comes down and we start chatting about the new Rogue One trailer.  One of the boyfriend’s Facebook friends was disappointed there were no strong male leads from the new Star Wars movies for his kids.  Rey is great, but she’s female, and very clearly the lead.

Now, I love me some Rey, but tons of love has already been heaped on Rey as a great character.  So I’m going to provide my humble perspective on why Finn is a phenomenal character.  And an excellent role model for kids everywhere.

Strong Willed:  While at Maz’s place, Finn admits to Rey that he is a storm trooper.  He tells her he was taken from parents, who he will never know, when he was very young.  Which means he literally throws off a life time of indoctrination to escape the First Order.  Willpower is something any adult should have, but is alarmingly absent these days.

Decisive:  When Finn decided he needed to leave the First Order, he didn’t hem and haw.  He didn’t waste any time trying to find the perfect plan.  Finn used the element of surprise very much to his advantage.  He looked around, decided the person with a vested interest in helping him escape, was the newly captured Poe Dameron (who is no slouch himself, but didn’t really get enough screen time in this one to categorize his strong points).  Finn immediately acted on that instinct (oh yeah!  Finn has good instincts!)  and got Poe out of questioning to help with their mutually beneficial escape.

Smart:  Finn knew he didn’t have the skill set needed to fly a TIE fighter.  So he got Poe out of lock up.  He didn’t know if Poe could fly a TIE fighter, but he knew he stood a better chance at escape with someone at his back.

Common Sense: When Finn stumbles his way into some semblance of civilization on Jakku, he spies BB-8, who is with Rey.  With having never met her, when Finn sees the look on Rey’s face as she charges at him, he has  the good God common sense to run from the look of death bearing down on him.  I’ve known men who were married for 20 years to the same woman who didn’t have the sense to run from that look.

Intelligence: No, smart and intelligent are actually not the same thing.  Smart, according to dictionary.com, when used as an adjective, means quick or prompt in action.  Intelligence, however, means capacity for learning, reasoning, understanding.  Finn wants to get as far away from the First Order as he possibly can, as quickly as he can.  That’s not fear or cowardice.  That’s intelligence.  He knows what the First Order is capable of, and wants some distance between him and them.

Loyal: When Rey is captured, Finn lies to the Resistance in order to be on the mission to save her.  Oh yeah, Chewy even tells Rey it was Finn’s idea to save her.  That’s loyalty.  It may be a bit early to say love has blossomed between the two, but he sees her as a good person, and a friend, and when he sees that Kylo Ren has taken Rey, Finn’s loyalty has him running to the rescue of his friend.

Brave: He knows how dangerous the First Order is, yet he goes in to their heart to save his friend.  That takes courage.  Hell, his first duty wasn’t even as a combat technician…he worked in SANITATION!  Yet he still went in to save his friend.  Such bravery should be seen and encouraged in kids these days.

Foolhardy: again, referring to dictionary.com, foolhardy means recklessly or thoughtlessly bold.  Tying this in to his loyalty and bravery, what kind of idiot, with no training in that specific weapon, attacks a fully trained Sith Lord?  He had NO SHOT against Kylo Ren, but he fucking TRIED.  Because he is loyal, and brave, and foolhardy…and a most excellent strong male role model for this generation of Star Wars fans.

Now, I am sure there are many more than 8 reasons why Finn is awesome.  Seriously, strength in character is not a zero sum game.  Rey and Finn are well matched as lead characters, and watching Finn’s character progression will be truly joyous in the upcoming movies.

 

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“Water Stains”

Water Stains

CAVEAT:  I actually do need to start this one with a HUGE caveat.  Watered Silk, aka Moire, should never…EVER…be washed.  This is one of the few silks that is genuinely, unquestioningly, dry clean only.  What is it?  Moire silk is silk that has been pressed through industrial grade, steam rollers, which pull the warp threads slightly out of alignment from the weft threads, while simultaneously steaming the silk, creating a rippled effect that looks like, well, WATER.  It is very cool, as seen in this dress at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

To give an analogy of why you do not want to get Moire wet, imagine you have just stepped out of a long, steamy, hot shower.  The mirrors are all fogged up, but you don’t really need them and you’re feeling a little silly, so you wright “Love you Sweetie!” in the mirror.  That “Love you Sweetie!” will stay on the mirror, visible whenever the mirrors steam up, forever.  Or until you wash the mirrors.  Or until the next time you step out of a steamy, hot, shower and decide you DO need the mirror, and wipe it away with a towel.  Getting Moire silk wet is the equivalent of wiping away the design with a towel.

Also, silk velvet.  Silk Pile is TRICKY so until I get some in stock and practice cleaning at home, I am recommending dry clean only for Silk Velvet as well.

Now, on to the Challenge:  WATER!

Oh No! Water!
Oh No! Water!

Oh no!  I’ve dripped water on my silk dress.  What should I do?  Let it dry.  Seriously, that’s it.  Water is a completely neutral compound.  Unless there is tea, or coffee, or Easter egg dye, IN the water, water does not stain.

Water on Black...How artistic!
Water on Black…How artistic!
Let it dry
Let it dry

The cause of water stains is starch.  That’s right…Starch.  Because water does not stain.  Because water is a neutral element. What happens, is the water rinses a small patch of starch off the silk, creating very slight differences in gradation of color.  I decided to test this theory, in the name of making sure I was passing on good information.

Now, according to WikiHow, you erase these gradations…with WATER.  Or Steam.  What you’re really doing is displacing starch from the surrounding fibers to the previously blank patch which the water had cleared away, thus restoring balance to the force.  However, if you are trying to remove “Water Stains” from a completed item that is difficult to wash, like a silk hat, follow WikiHow’s instructions.  When it’s a blouse you have, just rinse the whole thing, and re-starch once dry.  So it is seriously that easy.  Water staining—It’s just not a thing.

 

Very faint gradations in color, brought about by displaced starch...
Very faint gradations in color, brought about by displaced starch…

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So I rinse and re-starch.  It’s truly that simple!

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Grease Stains!

You’re in your Faire Finery, eating a big old hearty greasy breakfast of Bacon and Eggs, getting ready for a full day of entertaining mundane’s, when the WORST happens…

While reaching for the salt, you drag your silk sleeve through the bacon grease!  You don’t have time to go change, Faire awaits.  You just know that stain is gonna be good and set by the time the long day is done.  And it’s SILK!  You don’t want to trash the silk, it’s your best shirt, and it was a little pricey.  But now you have a set in stain.  What to do?

Disclaimers:

I ran this experiment on Damask Raven silk, a scrap from an already completed project (hey, if I’m wrong in my cleaning methods, I don’t want to trash MY shirt!)  As such, I knew the fabric had already been washed and the excess dye from the factory had already bled off.  If you have not pre-washed your silk prior to making your garment, test a small inconspicuous area for color fastness before attempting the following cleaning method.

So here is a piece of Glorious Gold, a good size square, pinked to prevent fraying during the coming trial.

Glorious Gold silk scrap before attacking it with a forkful of grease
Glorious Gold silk scrap before attacking it with a forkful of grease

The Challenge:  GREASE!

Not bacon grease, but a lovely pot of vegetable grease used to fry up some chicken.  Remnants of chicken, paprika, and cayenne pepper give it that lovely orangey/yellow hue.

The Challenge!
The Challenge!

Oh NO!  I purposefully smeared a full forkful of chicken grease on the silk.  Then left it to dry overnight, resulting in this:

Oh NO! A Vicious smear campaign!
Oh NO! A Vicious smear campaign!

Back side of the same piece of silk.  Fully set in, and spreading throughout the surrounding fibers.  What a mess!  Heartbreaking if it happens to your silk Faire Finery.

Fully set in and spreading to the edges...
Fully set in and spreading to the edges…

So what is one to do?  Dawn.  Yes, Dawn, which fights grease while saving baby ducks.  Hey, if it’s good enough for baby ducks, it’s good enough for silk.

Dawn to the Rescue!
Dawn to the Rescue!

Ok, I admittedly over-saturated the piece.  You probably don’t need this much Dawn.  But after soaking the hell out of the fabric, I left it to sit for a few hours.  After rinsing it out fully and letting it air dry, the results were this:

Clean at Last!
Clean at Last!
No More Stain
No More Stain

Clean at last!  Seriously, Dawn is a miracle cure, which you can use on any grease stain, almost any fiber.  I probably would not use it on wool, due to wool’s propensity to felt when the fibers are wet and worked over.  But Dawn does not hurt silk and DOES get the grease out.  Just as advertised 🙂

Clean silk!  And for good measure, here are pictures, front and back, of the same silk, one week after running my test, and ironed.  I figured if there was any residual grease in the fibers, the heat from the iron would bring it to the surface.  Nary a trace to be found.  DAWN!  It gets the grease out!

After one week and a vigorous ironing
After one week and a vigorous ironing
No grease hiding here!
No grease hiding here!

And that is how I remove cooking grease from silk.  Has anyone else tried a different method that worked for them?