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Put the Starch Back in your Silk

Starch silk...it can be done

After the wash, can you starch silk?  Should you NOT wash silk taffeta because you’ll wash out the finish?  Then what?  Can you put the scroop back in the silk?  What happens if you didn’t previously wash your silk and now it has water marks where rain drops rinsed away the factory finish?

I tested three different starches on Tuscan Sunset Habotai and then I tested my favorite on a scrap of Pink Lemonade.  The overall winner really does bear out the statement that you get what you pay for.  My recommended Starch for silk is Le Blanc Portfolio Linen Press.  It creates a crisp, firm hand, and works well on Habotai as on Taffeta.

Before dipping and starching your finished garment, please test ANY starch on a scrap.  I recommend is keeping a scrap of silk after the finished project WITH the finished project. This is so that if you find yourself having to starch, you have a scrap to practice on first.

On to the video:

 

So YES!  You can starch silk…at least, you can starch Damask Raven silks.  But always test on a sample first.  Make sure you’re happy with the results.  And don’t be scared of your silk!  Don’t be scared to experiment and see how marvelous silk can be to work with.  It’s not a king cobra.  No one’s going to die if you try washing and starching silks.  Or maybe they will.  Only one way to find out 🙂

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I love my cat…I love my cat…

Cat pee from silk...It can be done!

Ever wonder how to remove cat pee from silk, without having to kill the cat as an animal sacrifice to the gods of cleanliness.  Fear not, Damask Raven searched out the answer and tested it, with the help of our very own asshole cat!  Here it is:  How to remove cat pee from silk, without killing the cat!

Actually, he’s not a bad cat.  Manchu is pretty cool as cats go.  But like all cats, he has his quirks.  Fortunately, rather than resulting in the desire to strangle him, this particluar quirk provided me with the unique opportunity to pick the piece of silk to be damaged.

As any cat owner knows, this is a rare opportunity indeed, as cats tend to pee where THEY want, on THEIR schedule.  So watch the video to see what I mean, and learn a little something about removing cat pee from silk…

If you don’t have the patience for a five minute video, the steps were:

  1. Rinse the silk
  2. Hand wash with Dr. Bronner’s Baby Soap
  3. Coat in baking soda
  4. Repeat if necessary.

In the end, it was not as horrifying as I feared.  Most of all, I was lucky enough to test the theory on scrap fabric, rather than a completed fashion garment, but at least you no longer have to shell out a fortune in dry cleaning fees, when for the cost of a box of baking soda, you can fix it at home.

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Working with Silk Fabric

Working with Silk Fabric

One of the things that keeps people from buying and working with silk fabric is fear.  Fear that it’s delicate and they don’t want to damage it, fear that they’ll mess it up.  So here is a crash course primer on how to work with this lustrous fabric.

First off, pre-wash the fabric using your preferred method.  The Caveat is that Silk Velvet and Watered Silk should always be dry cleaned.  Otherwise, either hand wash or machine wash the fabric in preparation of working with it.

Once you have washed and dried the fabric, iron it.  Just like with cotton, linen, or synthetic blends, you don’t want to cut wrinkles in to your silk.  Use a pressing cloth to protect your fabric from scorching.  If you have a very good iron, you might be able to get away without a pressing cloth, but if you are at all uncertain, far better and scorching that happens occurs on the pressing cloth, NOT your fashion fabric.  While you can remove many stains from silk, scorching is basically fire damage.  There’s no coming back from that.

If you don’t want to buy a cotton press cloth, you can make one from a scrap of silk organza.  Simply cut the scrap approximately one yard by one half yard, surge the cut ends to prevent fraying, and you’re good to go.  Make sure it’s SILK organza.  Polyesters can melt under high heat, and again, if it melts in to your silk, there’s no coming back from that damage.

After you have ironed the fabric, lay it out like you would any other fabric for patterning.  Make sure the entire piece is fully supported on your cutting surface.  Silk is SLIPPERY!  That zero friction is one of the difficulties of working with it.  If the full weight of the fabric isn’t supported, then when you start cutting out the pieces, the fabric can slip right off the cut surface, which will pull the fabric and pinned pattern pieces out of alignment, pretty much wrecking the project.  You can recover from this, but why cause yourself unnecessary agony?

For pinning and cutting–If you are comfortable with pattern weights, then by all means use them.  If you prefer pins, then I use Dritz Ultra Fine Pins.  Be cautious about jamming the pins into the cut surface underneath.  Because they are ultra fine, the point can dull very quickly.  As long as the pin shaft has not bent, you can always sharpen them using the emery pad on an old fashioned Tomato Pin Cushion.

When you’re satisfied with your pinning, it is time to cut.  Now, I have not used rotary cutters on silk, but that is mostly due to my inability to use rotary cutters without slicing my hands to ribbons.  I use Gingher Dress Shears with a micro-serrated edge.  The micro-serrated edge will hold any slippery or slinky fabric in place for a clean cut.  If you use a standard knife edge set of scissors, it becomes an exercise in frustration as the silk slides off the blade while cutting.

Once you’ve cut out, transfer any markings using either Tailor’s Tacks or Pin Marking, or a smooth tracing wheel and wax paper.  I do not recommend a serrated tracing wheel for any fabric due to the serration pokes tiny holes in whatever fabric you’re marking, which MIGHT close back up, but again, why risk the mayhem when alternatives are readily available?

Sew as usual, but I do recommend using silk thread when sewing silk fabric.  I also recommend shortening your stitch length to 2mm, or approximately 13 stitches per inch.  The filaments on silk threads are considerably finer than cotton, linen, or rayon threads, making the thread virtually invisible against the fabric.  And silk threads will run through your machine the same way cotton, linen, and rayon threads do.  Use the finest size needles for your machine and for hand sewing.

Originally, this post was published in June, 2016.  I am adding this paragraph here to reflect new knowledge.  When I originally published this post, I did not know what I now do about Seam Slippage.  Given this new to me knowledge, I wanted to include a paragraph about finishing your seams, as a preventative to seam slippage.  My first recommendation is to flat fell your seams, but a good alternative is french seams.  Both work well in giving a clean finish to your seam, and in preventing seam slippage.

And that’s it.  Follow these guidelines to make sewing with silk less stressful.  For additional tricks and tips, read this post from threadsmagazine.com.  I think the only thing we disagree on is thread type.  Otherwise, everything there is what I also recommend.  Happy sewing!

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Little Blue Dress Test

LBD, Ready to GO

During the week at Golden Beltane, we had a steady stream of wonderful people bringing us suggestions on what to stain silk with.  Sometime in the middle of the week, Brad and I were sitting in our pavilion, drinking (as one does during long camp events), when Brad starts giggling to himself.  I looked quizzically at him and he said “What about natural human protein stains?”  I start grinning back, noted he was wearing the blue tunic, and said “We can call it the little blue dress test.”  Then we sat there chortling at each other a la Beavis and Butthead, because at heart, we are horny 14 year old’s sitting in our first sex ed class.

Beavis and Butthead
Precisely!

Then it became a solid month of back and forth, “Are we gonna do it?” “Yeah, we’re gonna do it” “Really?  When do we want to do this?”  Which led eventually to this:

Which was HILARIOUS to edit.  At one point Brad came down and I was in tears I was laughing so hard.  Again…pervy 14 year old in the body of an adult woman.  It’s sad really.  Sadly HILARIOUS…In a prurient juvenile way.

Little Blue Dress Test or Protein Stains
Yep… that is EXACTLY what you think it is. Believe it or not, the dry stain is less disgusting than fresh…

And of course, once it was stained, we had to UN-stain it.  Or else scrap it and make a new one.  Which I really didn’t want to do.  So how does one remove “Natural Human Protein” from silk?  Salt Water.  It’s seriously that easy.  Don’t believe me?  Watch this video for more hilariously disgusting hi-jinks.

After dabbing the rest of the stickiness off, I tossed it in to a gentle wash cycle of the washing machine, let it hang dry, and Voila!  The Little Blue Dress survived the rigors of sex and is good as new again.

LBD, Ready to GO
Cleaned and Ready to Wear
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Costumes, Costumes, EVERYWHERE!

Working with Silk Fabric

Oh lord!  Costume College is just around the corner.  Which means I am jumping both feet in to the sewing storm in preparation.  First up, have to finish the vest for my Steampunk outfit.  And I should have had this outfit done for the Steampunk Convention in March, but time got away from me there, leaving me with a half finished project.  Luckily, the theme of the High Tea at costume college is…STEAMPUNK!  Which means I just need to finish this vest…

Next, I have to figure out how to paint lekku…and me.  I have the pants for my Imperial Assassin, sort of.  Need to shorten the legs a bit, turn them more in to knee pants.  And I have to make the top and half cloak.  And thanks to American Duchess, I also have the shoes!

Also have to make dresses for day wear for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, then decide which will be the outfit for the Friday night social.  I may or may not be in 18th Century that night.  Sort of depends on how the rest of the sewing escapades go.  Whatever I wear, it will be Silk!  It’s exhausting just looking at the list, and one would think that two months is plenty of time.  One would think.

But one is also trying to run a company, start another company, further one’s studies, LEARN ALL THE THINGS!  And help friends, walk ones dogs, spend time with the boyfriend, work a day job, clean the yard…. You guys know how life gets in the way of what you’d rather be doing.  Which is why blog posts with updates will be so very important!  If I have to report here, I might actually stay on track and get all the things done that need to be done.  It’s a thought, at least.