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Silk Noil

Silk Noil

Let’s start with Noil (sometimes spelled Noile).  From Fairchild, p. 415, “Short fibers removed during the combing operation of yarn making…the fibers sometimes are mixed with other fibers to make low-quality yarns or are used for purposes other than yarn making, such as padding, stuffing.  See BOURETTE SILK.”  Huh?  What is Bourette Silk?

Bourette Silk: “A coarse silk yarn spun from the waste that is produced in the manufacture of SCHAPPE SILK…the yarn is lumpy, irregular, and possesses low elongation.  Tufts from the nubs, noils, and other waste are interspersed throughout the yarn…” (Fairchild, p. 71.)

SCHAPPE SILK!  WHY!  WILL THE DICTIONARY DIVE NEVER END!

Ok, what is Schappe silk?  “A yarn made from silk waste that has been degummed, but only partially.  Synonym: SPUN SILK.” (Fairchild, p. 537).  Finally…familiar territory.

Essentially, Silk Noil is produced using the waste by-product of filament reels.  Even carefully unreeled silk is going to have uneven ends.  Those uneven ends are spun into Bourette Silk…or Schappe Silk…or better known as Silk Noil.  For some reason, probably because of the nubby slubs in the weaving, Silk Noil is sometimes mistakenly called Raw Silk.  Raw Silk has not been cleaned of is sericin.  You are closer to raw silk with Organza…or even with Schappe Silk… than you would be with Noil.

Silk Noil is surprisingly soft for a fabric that still has bits of cocoon woven in to it, has easy drape, and works well for tailored blouses, can be gathered, pleated, or tucked at will.  However, it is relatively thick compared to other silks, so too much gathering adds bulk.  Additionally, as it is the product of waste by-product, Noil is weaker than other silk fabrics.  Still stronger than cotton, but not as strong as chiffon, with it’s intact filaments.

As for Noil, when I Googled Noil in Fashion History, I found this wonderful blog by Revival Clothing, tracking use as far back as the middle ages.  More recently, it has entered fashion lexicon as part of Jedi costume, and Haute Couture.  Remember, when looking at the Dolce and Gabbana dress for $532 of silk noil…waste by-product.  Couture if a FASCINATING subject.  And a strong argument to become a skilled seamstress in your right!

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Crepe Back Satin

Crepe Back Satin

Crepe Back Satin.  The definition of which needed more research.  Seriously. From Fairchild, p. 156 “A reversible satin weave silk…made with an organzine warp, and a crepe-twist filling.”  What the hell is organzine?

Also from Fairchild, p. 426 “Raw silk yarn made of two or more twisted singles that are then doubled and twisted in the reverse direction on the ply.”  Now, to explain that.  Four filament threads are laid out, two by two.  Two are spun together with an s-twist, the other two are also spun together with an s-twist.  Then those new threads are spun together on a z-twist.

crepe de chine
First two are s-twist, then those two are spun on a z-twist.

These organzine threads are then used on the warp of the loom, with the filling threads the usual s and z-twist crepe filling yarns, woven in a satin weave.

Warp faced Satin

Also from Fairchild’s description of Crepe Back Satin, “There are two or three times as many ends as picks per inch.”  This makes it a sumptuous fabric, with full drape, and elegant movement.  It is full of texture, slinky soft on one side, crinkly on the other.  The texturing is so visible you can use the same yard of fabric to create visually interesting parti-colored clothes, with the texture being the key feature.  As for when it was first created…undetermined.  We know the first references to crepe fabric are from the 19th century.  It probably didn’t take long to experiment with satin weave and crepe yarns.  But when did historical spinners decide organzine was a thing?  Another mystery to be discovered later.

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Seam Slippage

Seam Slippage

The un-talked of enemy of those who work with silk.  What is it?  Seam Slippage occurs when the seam is solid, but the threads/fibers to either side of the seam start to pull away, resulting in a gap in the fabric.  This typically occurs when not enough stitches per inch are used during crafting the seam, and are more likely to occur on seams that run parallel to the selvage, along the warp of the fabric.

It is also prone to happening with silk.  This is mostly due to the filament nature of the fiber itself.  Silk is slick, and that slippery tendency includes having the filaments migrate away from the seam stitches, especially at stress points.  But not all is lost.  There are actually several steps you can take to avoid this catastrophe.

First, shorten your stitch length.  The average stitch length for commercial sewing machines is 2.5 mm or 10-12 stitches per inch.  Shorten that to 2 mm or 12-13 stitches per inch.  May not seem like much, but it makes a big difference in seam strength for silks.  Always make sure your seam allowance is at least 1/2 inch.  This is so you can do the next step:  flat fell your seams.  Or use French seams.  Really any double row of stitching is effective in combating seam slippage.  Binding the edges is NOT effecting against seam slippage due to the binding occurs on the outer edge to prevent fraying from the outside in, but does not really strengthen the seam itself.

And preventing slippage is that easy.  Seam allowance, stitch length, flat felling.  And however much you may hate flat felling seams (I HATE flat felling seams…I prefer pinking sheers and call it good.  I am a lazy seamstress in that regard), you will hate more having poured your heart and soul in to making the perfect gown, only to have the characteristics of the fiber destroy your efforts from the inside out.

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Taffeta–from the Persian

Taffeta

As silk made it’s way along the silk road and down in to Persia, the Persian’s added their own twist.  Literally.  Taffeta is from the Persian word Taftah, meaning “twisted woven,” Taffeta was first woven in the Third Century in Persia (p. 68, Parker).  Taffeta is a smooth, tightly woven, plain weave fabric, created by adding additional twist to the threads during weaving.  This adds strength to the fabric so that this is a very stable weave, with minimal fraying.  It still frays, but not as bad as organza or chiffon would.  Typically, the weft threads are slightly heavier than the warp threads, which also adds the smooth luster and face of this heavy fabric (p. 604, Fairchild).

Taffeta is produced using two effects, already discussed in my post on True Damask, silk pieces can be created by piece dying or by thread dying.  When Taffeta is piece dyed, it tends to have a slightly softer hand.  If it is thread dyed for shot silk effects or for stripes, the fabric tends to be slightly stiffer and have a bit more body.

Regardless of piece dyed or thread dyed, silk taffeta is where scroop originated.  Now, the dictionary definition provides that scroop is added artificially by treatment with dilute acid.  This is true for nylon or rayon taffetas, but scroop is a natural property found in silk (Fairchild, p. 540), and especially noticeable in Taffeta.  That rustling sound is what let Rhett Butler know that Mammy had accepted his gift of a red silk petticoat.  It is that noticeable.

Because it is a plain weave silk, it will crease, pleat, and gather, beautifully.  It drapes fantastically, and is relatively easy to work with, when compared to satin or lightweight organza.  And if the scroop bugs you too much?  Wash it in warm soapy water.  Missing the scroop.  Return it…with dilute acid!  From Julie Parker “…soak it in a solution of 5% white vinegar and water. (p. 68).  Huh….I guess dilute acid does add the scroop!

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End in Sight

What I learned

So….very….close!  One post a day from March 16 to April 21.  It is April 19.  Three more posts.  It has been a LONG five weeks.  So, what have I learned.  I learned that inspiration can come from unexpected places <ahem, Facebook>.  I learned that my best time to write is between 7:30pm and 9pm.  I learned that somedays, you just have to plug along <almost every weave post I did.  I get that it’s highly relevant to my blog, but man I hate writing them.>

I learned that when I really decide to do something <write a blog post a day> then I am damn well capable of pulling it off.  This bodes well for my pattern making and digitizing desires.  I also learned that I work best when I focus on one project at a time.  So I can blog….or I can pattern….or I can digitize.  But trying to do all three at the same time is crazy making.

I learned, in my small chunks of downtime, that I sort of enjoy Anime.  And exercise.  That last one shocked the hell out of me, but I kind of like weight lifting.  It feels like I’ve accomplished something when I actually complete a trip to the gym, a little promise to myself kept.  And I’ve learned.  I may not have enjoyed writing every single post, but I learned something from each one written.  Whether it was my new speculations on Cartridge Pleating, or what exactly made Organza different from Chiffon.

And while I may not enjoy writing (I hate writing…I’m pretty damn good at it, but I hate it), I do love learning.  And I learned that I have mad respect for people who make their living writing.  How the hell is anyone able to write, day after day after day, and keep the energy and quality high?  And as a life long bibliophile, I am eternally grateful to those who do make their living from the written word.  Not sure I’m ready to be one of them, but maybe someday.  In the mean time, I am going to ponder my last two posts of this sojourn, and a new writing schedule.  While I don’t intend to write every day, I do want a regular posting schedule.  After all, I’m not done learning yet!

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Cartridge Pleating

Cartridge Pleating

No, not *another*  how to on Cartridge Pleating.  There are literally dozen’s of how to’s for this particular technique.  What I wanted to know, was where does it come from?  Wikipedia has it popular during the 15th and 16th Centuries and making a resurgence in popularity during the 1840’s.  Which is all true, as far as that goes.  But not really helpful in explaining this:

Close up of what appears to be Cartridge Pleating…
…on a Yuan Dynasty Robe, Mongolia

Images are from the SCA China Facebook page, where an enquiring seamstress wanted to know if her eyes deceived her.  And all of the skilled seamstresses present agreed that that very much appears to be what we call Cartridge Pleating.  On a 13th or 14th century Mongolian Robe…no where near Renaissance Europe, you might note.

Now, my time machine is in the shop, so I am unable to ACTUALLY confirm with the original tailor that that is, yes, cartridge pleating.  And what every single one of those tutorials above lists is how cartridge pleats are made:  Run two or more rows of evenly spaced basting stitches parallel to each other, then pull them up to create the gather before hand stitching them to the waistband. Which sounds an awful lot like: “Two rows of tightly-sewn stitches hold these pleats in place, and then the bodice is connected to the upper stitched line.”  That description is from a book called Traditional Korean Costume, and is describing a men’s coat excavated from the tomb of Yi Hwang.

Now, for those who dislike following links, Yi Hwang was a Confucion scholar who lived from 1501-1570.  This is certainly falls within the 16th century zone when cartridge pleats were known to exist.  But there is no smoking gun connecting European tailoring techniques to Asian tailoring techniques.  Silk and other textiles were widely traded on the silk road.  But it was the uncut goods that were traded, not finished garments, like we have today.  If we can believe Korea had cartridge pleating the in 16th century, is it impossible to believe Mongolia had it in the 13th century?

Even if you don’t believe the Mongolian hordes are capable of great refinement, they were certainly capable of raiding it from other cultures which they defeated and then folded in to the Mongolian Empire.  Which became the Yuan Dynasty upon Khublai Kahn’s inheritance of the title of Great Kahn.  Yet the hubris of mankind has all of us who do European costuming believing that cartridge pleating was the sole provenance of Europe.  I’ve even heard that the name Cartridge Pleating is from pleating the fabric over a bullet casing or cartridge.  However, there is a SERIOUS flaw in that logic.  Cartridge pleating existed in the 16th century.  Yet the first actual Cartridge for firearms wasn’t invented until 1845.  Paper cartridges existed for muskets as early as the 14th century, but would have been VERY expensive and not likely used in tailor’s shops.

But wait!  How can you know paper cartridges wouldn’t have been used in tailors shops?  Because paper cartridges were filled with gun powder.  And why would you want something easily combustible, a hot military item, closely controlled by the government, in a shop filled with flammable cloth?  One slight accident and you lose EVERYTHING.  Who would risk that?  A more likely explanation is that gauging was in use for many centuries.  When firearms became the hot new thing for up and coming nobility to own, enterprising tailors everywhere began calling the technique cartridge pleating to cash in on the military fervor of the day.

Again, my time machine is broken, so this is all speculation.  But it’s my belief that any method of gathering large quantities of material was widely available to tailors the globe over. Much like many cultures simultaneously figured out the art of spinning and weaving, they all figured out gathering quite handily.  And gauging pleats were a lovely way to show off a tailor’s craftsmanship and technique.  At least, that’s the way I’m going to tell it.

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Shot Silk

Shot Silk

No, this is not another reference to Silk in Warfare.  Shot silk is a specific effect which is created when the warp threads are one color and the weft threads are a second, complimentary or contrasting color.  Most commonly found in Taffeta’s, shot silks require a bit of forethought to manufacture.

Now, the reason for the forethought isn’t just what colors do I want to use.  Typically, when a length of fabric is woven, the looms do their job, and the end product is then dip dyed in a large vat, to produce an all over color.  Or in cases of calico prints, they’ll be sent through the printers to have the design printed on them.  But in shot silk, the threads must be dyed before weaving can commence.  This requires calculation at the manufacturers end.  How much thread will actually be needed in each color to make the ordered yardage.  And then that much thread must be dyed in separate vats, then placed in mordants for the dyes to set.

Then the weaving commences.  The result is pure iridescence.

Purple on the Warp, Blue on the Weft

Today this effect is called shot silk.  However, historically it has been called changeant, changeable silk, and shadow silk.  Now, this effect is by no means a 21st century innovation.  The wikipedia article on shot silk reports a 12th century description of liturgical vestments from the 7th century of purple and yellow.  So this technique dates back to the middle ages, at least to the 12th century, and as far back as the 7th, if the article is described accurately from that time.

It was unquestionably fashionable in the 19th century, as shown in this image from The Met.

Changeante Silk 1840s

And there is reference to changeante silk throughout many books on 18th century dress.  I suspect that much like all things, the trend comes and goes.  So while shot silk is referenced in the 12th century clergy wear, it’s popularity waxed and waned over the intervening centuries, sometimes en vogue, sometimes not.  Such are the vagaries of haute couture.  As Heidi Klum would say, one day you’re in, the next, you’re out.  Auf Wiedersehen!

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Organza

Silk Organza

Organza, that crispest of crisp fabrics.  Organza is a plain, very light weight, basket weave fabric.  There are no special twists in the yarn, although they are tightly twisted.  What gives Organza the body we all love is the sericin, or silk gum.

When the bombyx mori start to spin their cocoons, they don’t just tightly spin the fibroin around themselves.  They also produce sericin, which is the gummy component that allows the fibroin to maintain it’s cocoon shape until the bombyx mori crawls out of it’s cocoon.  Or until the cocoon is harvested for silk filaments.  If you’re a true blue Buddhist, you might want to skip cultivated silk.  Lots of bugs die in the making of it.  Don’t worry, there is always Ahimsa Silk

Typically, once the cocoon is harvested, it is dropped in a vat of boiling water to remove the sericin as part of the processing to create the filaments for silk threads and yarns.  But if the intended product is silk organza, most of the sericin is left on.  This natural silk gum leaves the threads stiffer and is what creates the crisp, stiff, body of silk organza fabrics.

Organza is good for decorative embroidery work, as an over skirt, or to flat line a fabric that needs a little more body.  Because of it’s natural crispness, this is not a curve hugging fabric.  Even on a bias cut, organza would be hard pressed to do anything other than fall in folds away from the body.  It can be gathered, pleated, shirred, puffed, and bouffanted.  It is genuinely versatile.  Organza makes an excellent sew in stabilizer or facing fabric.  However, given that it is a sheer fabric, seams need to be finished.  Generally, I use french seams or flat-felled seams when finishing sheer seams.  Or if I’m in a hurry and feeling lazy, I’ll serge them.  But french seams look the nicest, especially on fabrics where the seams are definitely visible.

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Ask me for Anything but Time

Ask me for anything but Time

Yesterday, I wrote about UFOs and picking your project.  Today, I write about time.  As in, it is fleeting, and madness is taking it’s toll.

Madness…it is upon me…

My next vending event is next weekend.  Fortunately, I have no costumes I need to make for this event.  Unfortunately, two weeks after that, I DO have costumes I need to make.  Which I don’t have time to make.  Because I committed to this blog.  One post a day from 3/16 until 4/21.  And in yesterday’s post, I mentioned the importance of practicing willpower.  But all things come at a cost.

Magic isn’t the only thing with a price

Time is a finite resource.  We all have the same twenty four hours.  But the time I spend writing this blog is time I am not spending sewing costuming.  There is only so much one can do in a day.  Generally need to sleep for 8 hours.  I work for 8 hours at my day job.  And I spend at least 1.5 hours eating.  Another hour at the gym…the gym is not my natural habitat, but I am trying to take better care of myself so that I am able to make the most of the other 23 hours in my day.  Spend one to two hours maintaining my various animals (three birds, three cats, two dogs), and cleaning my house.

Which leaves me 3 hours to work on my business.  Three hours to blog, to check inventory, to make signs, to plot videos, to plan outfits, and to sew…which I can’t do until I finish this quest of one blog a day.

Because by choosing to write one blog a day, I have to give something else up.  Giving up sleep and eating are impractical for health reasons.  For the same reason, I can’t give up going to the gym.  My health is the only thing allowing me to keep up with everything else.  Until Damask Raven is a self-sustaining business, I need my day job, so I have to give that my all during the 8 hours I’ve committed to it.  So three hours to blog, sew, and run a business in general.

But wait!  What about weekends?  No, I do not work the day job on the weekends.  Usually.  Except when I do work the weekends so that I can take a long weekend to vend for Damask Raven.  While this is not a common occurrence, and I have had several weekends between March 16 and now, I usually take several hours on the weekend to NOT work.  On anything.  Because hitting the go button without pause leads to high stress burnout.  And collapse.  Which is what happened last October through December.  Three months to re-collect myself and get back on track.  So yes, downtime is a requirement.

So, rather than beat myself up over NOT getting costuming done for Miss Fisher Con, I dug in to my existing costuming closet, found some appropriate alternatives to wear, and have moved on.  Once I get through the next week of blogging, I can start prepping my costumes for Costume College.  And I won’t be blogging every day, and making towels for sale, and prepping dances for performance pieces.  And I will be motivated and focused on completing the very best costuming I can for Costume College.  Having chosen my outfits, I am excited to start working on them.  Only my willpower keeps me chugging along on this pre-existing project.

But April 24th, the new madness begins.

 

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UFOs in a Shame Spiral

UFOs cause shame...

A while back, my friend Ember Sky, who is a cosplayer, was torn between two projects.  She had one thing she needed to finish to have Costume A completed.  But she really wanted to start work on Costume B.  I told her to start Costume B.  My logic being, if she forced herself to do Costume A, her heart wouldn’t be in it.  Which meant she’d be dragging her feet and not really concentrating.  This would invariably lead to mistakes.  Which meant MORE time before she could work on Costume B, as she would then need to correct the mistakes before calling Costume A completed.

This was both simultaneously very good AND very bad advice.  It was very good advice for the reasons I listed.  If Ember start’s Costume B, the time will fly by and she will be productive because she will be working on what she is called to work on in that moment.  It was very bad advice because by caving to the desire to work on what she wants to, two things happen.  First, she was not practicing willpower, which is always a good trait to have.  Second, she was contributing to her UnFinished Objects (UFOs) pile.  Now, given that the one item she needed to complete for Costume A was in fact needed for a fast approaching convention, I knew she would complete the item.

And then there is me.  If I put down an object, it may be decades before I pick it up again to finish it.  This is not a joke. A literal decade may pass before I complete the item.  I have an entire Box of Shame of UFOs that I sort of look at and realize I should just re-cut them in to quilting squares.  Because there is no chance anything in that box would ever fit me.  I have a jacket that I cut out and assembled 9 years ago, all it needs is buttons and button holes.  I found it while cleaning out a closet.  It now sits in my cutting table, a constant reminder of my shame.  It even has a matching skirt that has never been worn…because of buttons.

UFOs cause shame
Shame shame shame…

I have only gotten slightly better over the years. I have gotten to the point where I purchase or cut off bits of fabric, but don’t actually cut them out.  This creates a Schroedinger’s effect…until it is cut, it is both UFO and not UFO.  Which is how I find myself in possession of a huge, outdoor bin of fabric.  I can look at 95% of it and know exactly what I was going to make of it.  I am just not excited for that project.  So I have storage bin of UFOs/non-UFOs projects.  And the shame continues….