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Dry Clean Only

The Care and Feeding of Silk, Dry Clean Only

How exactly did the dry clean only label come about?  Let’s condense history in to a brief paragraph.  Silk has been around for anywhere from 8500 to 5500 years.  Silk cocoons have been found in a tomb in Henan province China dated to 6500 BCE with a full bolt of cloth located, also in Henan province, dated to 3500 BCE.  Dry cleaning wasn’t invented until 1855 by Jean Baptiste Jolly.  So, from 6500 BCE to 1855 CE, water was used to clean silk.  Water was still used to clean silk until the advent of the washing machine.  How’s that? you ask.  A brief story in merchandising.

Major retailers of fine clothing would sell a silk blouse to a lady.  Or a silk tie to a gentleman.  Then when doing laundry, the silk item would get thrown in with the blue jeans…probably on accident, sorting clothes has been standard process since forever.  Whether accidental or on purpose, the result was the same.  During spin cycle, the zipper on the blue jeans would catch on the silk, tearing it.  This resulted in the blouse or tie being returned to the retailer.  Who would accept the return because, <expletive deleted> you Nordstrom and your “Customer is always right” policy.

The retailers were losing scads of money on damaged returns because people weren’t paying attention.  So they slapped a dry clean only label on it and made damaged goods the problem of the dry cleaning industry.  Fast forward 100 years and everyone is scared to buy or work with silk because it is a dry clean only fabric.

Now let me explain to you why, exactly, except for in rare instances, I would NOT recommend dry cleaning silk fabric.  Chemicals.  Now, I am not someone to whom the word chemical is a scary thing.  I believe dry cleaning is perfectly safe and use the dry cleaner for my wool cloak, and my down comforter, winter jacket.  I do not use the dry cleaner for silk because along with any stains, the chemicals will strip the natural luster from silk, resulting in a decided dullness.

“Silk tends to look dull and dingy after several trips to the cleaners.  In fact, many silks actually look better and last longer when washed by hand. (Parker, p. 61).  How can that be?  The Cleaners are supposed to make sure your garments look the best.  Except for those chemicals which are actually very harsh solvents which strip fibers of any residual moisture. And as we know…silk loves moisture.

Initially, dry cleaning used petroleum based solvent.  Yes…petrol.  As in gasoline.  However, due to the inability to obtain insurance coverage, what with the combination of highly flammable chemicals stored next to highly flammable fabric which had subsequently been soaked in those chemicals, the Dry Cleaning business does what commerce does best.  It innovated.  And by the 1930’s, the industry had shifted entirely to tetrachloroethylene, aka perchloroethylene or perc, as it is commonly known.

This was a wholly good thing, as perc is non-flammable, can be used with most fiber types, and is very stable, which means it can be recycled and is better for the environment.  And while it’s chemical composition won’t hurt silk, it will dull that luster we all love so much.  But for the low low price of $15.99 for Dr. Bronner’s and another $12.49 for the white vinegar to rinse your silk in, you can hand wash all your silk at home.  That $28.48 will last FOREVER…well, not literally.  But I bought my bottle of Dr. Bronner’s well over a year ago and still have half a bottle left.  And white vinegar has other uses than as a silk rinse…it’s an all purpose cleaner!

So save yourself the cost of a dry cleaner and at the same time you will save your silks.  Hand wash them at home.  You can even machine wash them!  Just make sure to separate out the blue jeans first.

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That’s a Moire

That's a Moire

Watered silk.  Moire.  And all it’s variations (moire antique, moire francaise, moire ineraillable, etc….)  According to Wikipedia, Moire was available as early as the Middle Ages. This is certainly possible, as the earliest mangle found has been dated 1444, and was located in Bergen Norway.  Now Norway is pretty far removed from China.  Which logically says that the first moire was probably linen or wool.

This is just supposition.  The Chinese invented everything else so it is not impossible that they invented watered silk, and I just haven’t uncovered the term they use for it.  I was wrong about crepe, I could be wrong about this.  But if China did not invent this technique, and the earliest mangle was located in Norway, than most likely moire was first linen, possibly wool, with silk being discovered by a foolhardy chamber maid who was probably beaten for putting the very expensive silk through a mangle.  Yeah the effect was cool, but what the hell!

Alternatively, the meaning has changed over the years.  According to Fairchild, Moire was “formerly applied to various fabrics of great value and luster.  Gold, silver, and silk fabrics are called moire in 15th and 16th century French documents (p. 393).”

Now, what does all this mean?  Well it means that language is a living thing and meaning changes over time.

Conversely, Calendering is when a piece of fabric is passed through a calender, a machine with two or more cylinders which touch.  As the fabric passes through, heat and/or water is added, creating stretch and pull along the grain line of the fabric.  This creates a rippling, embossed, effect on the fabric surface.  This effect is not permanent unless specifically set using heat or chemicals.

Which is why this is one of the few fabrics I recommend for dry clean only.  If you don’t want to dry clean (because, hey…who does?) then make very sure you wash a test piece first.  Verify that the calendering effect is permanent.  If it’s not, then your options are to dry clean. Or make very sure it’s not going to rain the day you wear your dress.

 

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Silk and Static

Static

Yesterday, I commented in my blog that silk was anti-static.  This bears further explanation, especially as googling “silk anti static” will get you no where.  Or more specifically, it will get you many pages of how to discharge a static charge from your silk.  And it’s all good advice.  I think my favorite was from a physics blog, which shows silk has a moderate charge.

But that’s not the whole story.  If you live in a dry area, like, for example, the high desert of Nevada, than silk tends to be very static-y.  There isn’t enough moisture in the air to prevent a static charge from building up.  Which, yes, will cause a static charge to build up.  If you live somewhere with a bit more natural humidity, like, say, New Orleans, LA, then silk will almost never build up a static charge.  Why is that?

Silk is essentially a protein fiber, consisting of fibroin and sericin.  Like hair, it will go crazy with static in dry weather or when an electrical storm is on the way.  But also like hair, silk is NOT prone to static in high humidity environments, due to the way it absorbs moisture.  So to prevent static in silk, you “water” it.  Water is in quotes, in this instance, because you don’t to actually put water on the silk.  Water won’t hurt silk, but if you’ve starched it, it will leave spots and require re-starching.

So how do you “water” your silk?  With steam.  If you have a steam press, that works.  Provided it does not leak water on a starched garment, you can steam press your silk.  If you don’t have a steam press, you can hang your silk over a humidifier.  Lacking that, hang it in the bathroom, turn the shower on hot, and close the door.  Let it steam for five to ten minutes.  Please note, do not hang your silk IN the shower.  The goal is not to actually get the silk wet.  The goal is to allow the silk to absorb moisture from the air (Parker, p. 42).

Now, if you don’t have time to steam your silk, that doesn’t mean you don’t wear it.  There are other options to discharge the static build up.  Wearing layers, with either a silk or cotton under garment, can prevent static.  Wikihow recommends running a metal hanger through the garment, placing a safety pin in an inconspicuous location, or using a metal thimble, all of which will work just as well.  And the old standby, which works for everything, is running a dryer sheet over your garment.  All of these work to discharge a static build up in your silk.  But to avoid it in the first place, try watering your silk ahead of wearing it.

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Silk Crepe

Crepe

To understand Crepe and how it is made, we have to dig a little bit in to spinning techniques.  Only a little bit. I’ll try and keep it brief.

Fibers, or in the case of silk filaments, are spun in to threads before weaving.  Fibers/filaments are spun with either a z-twist or an s-twist.  A Z-Twist means that when the fibers are spun, the spirals formed from spinning conform to the central portion of the letter z.  S-Twist means that the fibers when spun conform to the central portion of the letter s (Fairchild, p. 184).

With that bit of technicality out of the way, we can jump in to crepe.  From All About Silk, crepe has finer warp threads with heavier filling threads, with threads alternating between z and s twists.  These irregularities give crepe a crinkly, pebbly texture, and an elegant drape and flow.  However, the irregularity of the texture makes it hard to hold a crease.  Among the easier fabrics to work with BECAUSE of it’s texture, crepe truly is a dream drape to work with.

One additional word of caution before buying or working with crepe: due to how very tightly twisted the filaments are, crepe is VERY prone to shrinking when washed.  100% silk will dye to any color you want, and despite belief to the contrary, silk CAN be washed with water, it can even be machine washed.  But, crepe will definitely shrink, so make sure to purchase extra to allow for that shrinkage.

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Busy busy busy

busy busy busy

No, not another cloth weave.  While I will continue with my descriptions and details of different silk weaves, that is just one of my projects.  And to give my brain a break from this is that, I thought I would outline some of my plans and upcoming events.  Busy, Busy, Busy.

 

So far this year, Damask Raven is confirmed vending at Hot Raqs, Miss Fisher Con, and Cairo Shimmy Quake.  Also plan to be vending at West-AnTir War and Great Western War.  Additionally, am teaching three classes at Costume College.  So this is shaping up to be a very busy year.

 

And on top of vending plans, I am learning to make patterns, hopefully soon to be on sale everywhere Damask Raven vends, and learning to digitize embroidery, for that perfectly matched trim.  And because I feel I’ve been neglecting my blogging here at Damask Raven, I set myself the task of writing one blog post a day from two days ago until Hot Raqs.  Now, that isn’t entirely selfless.  One of the classes at Costume College is a class on different silk weaves.  By writing the posts, I’m prepping myself for that class.  And hopefully sharing some knowledge along the way.

 

So I am juggling.  A lot.  And learning a lot.  Pattern making is new to me, and once I get the hang of it, I’m looking forward to a series of blog posts highlighting my progress.  With the thirty seven posts in thirty seven days I set myself, I will probably start that soon, as it is a learning process and curve.  And continuing to show off the Baby Lock, although I’ve decided to speed up the lessons a bit with that.  Also have to keep up with stain removal and the Folly of Dry Cleaning Everything.  So more posts to come, and  I will try to mix it up, so as not to bore everyone with this is that blog posts.

 

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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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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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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.

 

 

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Plato on Beer

Beer on silk

He was a wise man who invented beer — Plato on beer.

Beer is a staple around campfires, especially when one is a historical reenactor.  And since beer and silk have been walking the same roads for centuries, it is not impossible to think that someone…somewhere…some when…would have experienced the beer on silk phenomenon.  Fortunately, this stain is pretty simple to take care of.  I’m not at all sure it wouldn’t have just rinsed out with cold water.  But, just to be on the safe side, I spot cleaned with Dr. Bronner’s too.

So seriously, lager is no challenge for Dr. Bronner’s.  It really is that simple.  The challenge with alcohol on silk is that silk naturally absorbs moisture.  And alcohol naturally dries out.  Dr. Bronner’s, however, retains a high level of glycerin which helps protect silk from the damage alcohol can cause.  So watch the video to see how easy a light lager is to wash from silk.

And there you have it.  It really is as easy as spot treating with Dr. Bronner’s to remove beer from silk.  While this was a light lager beer, I don’t imagine a stout would be any more of a challenge.  But someone else may have to test that one and let me know.  Neither the boyfriend or I are particular stout drinkers.  Maybe with Irish Car Bombs