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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?


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?


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One of those weeks.  Last week’s blog was – well, a bit scattered.  This is what happens when one blogs after a very long weekend of vending.  Lesson being to pre-write the blog so that it at least makes sense once posted.  And then the blogs I thought I was going to write this week were topics already written about by others.  And so here I am, left with nothing to blog about.

Instead, I spent a productive week preparing the sewing area for my next big costuming push: Golden Beltane.  Then I spent Sunday making a cloak for said Beltane.  Then I started playing Star Wars online and got extremely distracted with planning my Twi’lek cosplay.  All very worthy endeavors, but are they blog worthy?

The cosplay is, yes.  After all, it is sewing related.  I think everyone knows how to make a basic circle cloak, and there is nothing special about the one I made for my boyfriend.  But an all silk Twi’lek Sith Lord cosplay?  There’s something to ponder.  Most people think Sith Lord or Jedi Knight, and they immediately go for wools and linens.  Which of course makes sense.  If you refer back to the original costuming from the movies, and these are the fibers used to create the costumes worn by Obi Wan Kenobi and Darth Maul.

On the flip side, people will make their cosplays using vinyl or leather or even pleather, because this is what they see in their minds eye when creating their costumes.  All of which makes perfect sense.  You have a look you create and see yourself in, and when you feel good about what you’ve created, you look good wearing it.

But as someone who has lived and breathed silk for the last year and eight months, I see silk.  I see flowing robes, and silky sirwal.  I see sassy boots (not silk) and lekku adorned in silk.  And as someone who is rather enjoying the expanded universe created by Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWOTR), I see no reason I can’t create what my minds eye sees in silk.  And we know silk certainly was used in costume creations in the Star Wars films, at least as far as Princess Leia and Queen Amidala were concerned.  So why not for a Sith Lord?  Wouldn’t the bad guys adorn themselves in the uncommon?  Set themselves apart from the so called good guys?  That is my intention.

So this is my statement of intent for the future.  For now, I must complete my costuming for Golden Beltane, where I will be vending.  But as soon as that is over, I learn body painting.  I learn to attach my lekku firmly to my head, and I create my flowing robes.  That is a journey I will gladly share as I progress upon it.

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What’s that fiber?

Rose Scrolls Silk Twill

Let’s talk fiber. Fabric is composed of fibers, twisted in to threads, which are then woven in to fabric. So the fibers are Silk, cotton, wool, linen, acrylic, polyester, rayon, nylon…I’m sure there are others, but you get the drift. Everything else is weaving technique. So when you walk in to the fabric store and buy satin, you are usually buying polyester satin. Taffeta is usually polyester. Broadcloth is usually cotton. Twill is usually wool. Because these are the common weaves for these fibers in retail outlets, fiber is almost never specifically delineated on signage.  However, fiber content should always be listed on the bolt end. But, any fiber can be woven in to any weave. The three common weaving techniques are:

  1. Plain weave. This is also known as basket weave. Broadcloth is a plain weave. Habotai or China Silk are plain weaves. Organza, Dupioni, and taffeta are all plain weaves. What creates the different textures is how the thread is spun or treated during the weaving process. This is a very stable weave, not particularly prone to snagging.
  2. Satin weave. This is created by floating the weft thread over three or more warp threads, which causes a lustrous front and a dull fabric back. Damask weave is created by weaving designs in a combination of plain and satin weave. The satin is the lustrous design, the plain is the background. True damask is 100% reversible, so you can pick if you want the design to be plain weave or satin weave showing.
  3. Twill weave. Twill is sometimes called double basket, as it is created by weaving two weft threads over two warp threads. This is called 2/2 twill.  Twill can also be created by weaving three weft over 1 weft (3/1 twill). The end result is a diagonal weave pattern. This is a VERY stable weave, commonly found in Denim.

You have your fibers. Everything else is technique.

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Spitalfields Silk Weavers

Pink Lemonade Silk Taffeta

In the early 18th century, England, like the rest of Europe, received their silks as imported fabrics from Italy and France.  Now, anyone who knows anything about European history, can see why this might be a problem for England.

England had not had the easiest of relationships with Italy ever since Henry VIII kicked the pope to the curb because he was hot to trot for then girlfriend Anne Boleyn,   I mean, the pope lives in Rome.  Actually, in Vatican City.  But Vatican City is located in Rome.  In Italy. Because the Pope is Catholic, he had some very strong opinions on England’s defection from the Church. Henry responded by setting himself and all heirs (well…MOST heirs) as the head of the Church in England.  So yeah, Italy/Rome was no longer getting revenues from the churches in England.  Because now the head of the royal house was getting those revenues.  One can only imagine that having no option but to buy this supreme luxury item from Italy really galled.  Except they did have an option….France.

Yeah…. England’s rocky history with France goes back even further.  Henry’s dispute with Rome was in 1532.  England’s dispute with France went back to another Henry…. Henry II.  Probably even further to William the Conqueror who came over in 1066, but I’m not looking to tell ALL of England’s history.  Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitaine.  Henry II already had a strong claim to most of France, having been Duke of Normandy and Count of Anjou, those two sections of which comprised HUGE parts of France.

Then in 1152 he married Eleanor of Aquitaine, an heiress who controlled almost 1/3 of France.  With this marriage, Henry II became Duke of Aquitaine and now controlled 2/3 of France.  In addition to being in bloody line for the throne of England (for a REALLY ROUGH history on this, watch Pillars of the Earth which Starz produced.  Interesting story set against this time frame in history).  And indeed, Henry II did become King of England.  But, really, one cannot be King of England while bending a knee to France.  This led to centuries of dispute with France, wherein for long periods whoever sat on the throne of England, also claimed sovereignty over France.  AWKWARD!

So this brief, rough outline, of silk in England, led eventually to the Spitalfields Silk Weavers industry.  In the early 18th century, as Catholic France proceeded in its persecution of Huguenots, many of those persecuted sought sanctuary in Protestant England.  Many of those so persecuted, were master level silk weavers from the silk industry in Lyons, France.  Seeing as how silks were their business and this is what they knew how to do, England suddenly had the makings of their own silk industry.  In an effort to protect this burgeoning industry, England placed a moratorium on imported Lyonnaise silks.

While the silk fields of Spitalfields have been silent for a while, England, bless their little hoarding, history loving hearts, still has many many images and samples of Spitalfields silks.  Which are kept at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  Who will license those images. For a small fee, of course. So now, I have two silks, the artwork and design of which originated in Spitalfields, with master silk weaver Anna Marie Garthwaite.

Now, I love love love these silks. One is a light weight, 16MM Silk Satin, which has been screen printed.  The other is a 19MM Silk Taffeta, which has also been screen printed. This is both accurate, and not, from a historical perspective. It IS accurate, in that they absolutely, without question, had and used painted fabric for dresses and garments in the 18th century. And silk screening is the 21st century version of hand painting. Bit faster, but the results are similar.

What is NOT accurate is that these two designs were originally brocaded silk. The decision to go with silk screen versus brocade was purely economic. Damask Raven wants to bring these fabulous silks to life in a cost effective manner.  This is so that you, the Couture Costumier working from your luxe home studio, can create these fashionable garments at a reasonable cost. Brocading the silk increases the weight from light and mid-weight, to heavier weights, which is more and more accurate historically.

It is also more and more expensive. So Damask Raven, in an effort to keep costs within the realm of reasonably priced, used silk screening in the design and manufacture. I would love to offer brocaded Spitalfields Designs.  But for now, that cost is above my mans. So for now, I intend to sew away with what’s on hand. It is truly beautiful and the designs quite easily stand the test of fashionable time.

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The Witch

The Witch

I don’t typically plan to do movie reviews here, but having hit on two of my passions, historical costuming and the history of witchcraft, I sort of feel compelled to write out my thoughts post-screening.

I went in to this movie knowing two things.

  1. According to MSN, The Church of Satan gave The Witch it’s endorsement
  2. Stephen King said it “Scared the hell out of me.”

I love a good tense horror flick.  But I think the current gore/slasher flick concept of horror is disgusting more than terrifying, so I don’t typically watch so-called horror films.  This is definitely NOT a slasher flick.  And for what the Church of Satan ACTUALLY said, I would refer you to the review penned by Magus Peter H. Gilmore, which does contain spoilers, but accurately presents the highlights and takeaways from the film.

For me, I approached this movie more from a historian’s perspective, and as such found it completely fascinating.  It was meticulously researched and the attention to detail is spectacular.  The costuming was impeccably researched and created and the acting was very well done, impressively so given how much weight the actors had to carry with such a limited cast and minimal background provided.  As someone who spent her formative years obsessively researching the history of witchcraft, from The Inquisition through the Salem Witch Trials, it was gripping.

If you approach the movie taking it as absolute face value, that these things ARE happening, and are not just hysteria as a result of extreme religious beliefs, then it is profoundly disturbing.  It becomes a recruitment video for a cult, and you can see how the sins and imperfections of an extremely religious family leads to their ultimate destruction and the conversion of what was quite possibly the only innocent person in the family to a very dark path indeed.

If you watch this movie expecting to be scared to death on the say so of Stephen King…well, I can only say the King of Horror scares much easier than I do.

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plain weave

I was talking with a friend last week, and she was trying to remember which of Damask Raven’s products she didn’t quite know what that was.  Habotai!  It’s doesn’t help that, while I list the product as Habotai, in product description I use Habotai and China Silk as interchangeable terms.

So lets talk about Habotai.  What is it?  Well, in the most basic terms, we will turn to Wikipedia: and note that while the term itself is Japanese, Habotai is most commonly found and manufactured in China, which is why it is interchangeably referred to by most vendors as Habotai or China Silk in the same postings.  So what is it?  Quite simply, it is a plain woven fabric on 100% silk filaments, plain woven simply meaning that one warp thread loops over one warp thread then under the next thread, and so on. For easy reference, typically quilters cotton, broadcloth, and muslin are found in a plain weave.

While it’s not a fancy weave like Damask or brocade, Habotai is wonderfully reflective, showcasing the best iridescent qualities of silk.  Regardless of what color the Habotai weave has been dyed, the color will catch and shimmer the light lustrously.  This iridescent quality is a specific property of silk, but with Habotai, there are no distracting patterns to draw the eye away from this quality, which is why  historically, Habutai was used for Kimono’s in Japan.  As an added bonus, Habotai, given that it is a plain weave, is a very stable weave, meaning it is less likely to snag than Satin or Damask would.  All that luster and beauty, AND it’s less likely to snag?  Why oh why is this beautiful fabric most commonly found in linings?

Oh yes, today, Habotai is usually found in the lightest weights, 5.5 or 6 MM, and used for linings on jackets and undergarments.  However, Damask Raven sells Habotai in 8MM white, and 12MM in a variety of colors, because it is such a wonderful fabric, lightweight enough to be used for shirts, blouses, or dresses, but at 12MM it’s not sheer so that it CAN be comfortably made in to shirts, blouses, and dresses for daily wear.

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Welcome to the Asylum

Welcome to the Asylum

That about sums it up.  I run my own company, Damask Raven obviously, which sells silk fabric. When one sells fabulous costuming supplies, one tends to do a lot of sewing.  Why wouldn’t you?  You have a ready supply of what you need to create fabulous-ness, and in doing so you also create instant advertising for your company.

Look what we have!  You too can purchase this and make your very own…. Whatever.

So the next logical step, when faced with at least a year of hard sewing, was to start blogging about it.  But I’m a little leery of blogging about sewing and sewing projects on Damask Raven, because that is not what Damask Raven is about.  Damask Raven is about the silk.  History of silk, how it came to the west, how it came to be, legends, silk road, pitfalls and pleasures of working with silk.  I don’t want to just tack on another sewing blog when there are already hundreds of excellent sewing blogs.

Additionally, since the primary focus of Damask Raven is historical silks, silks that could be used in period costuming, I am worried if I blog about sewing here, I will get bogged down in historical projects only.  And that narrows my customer base.  Silk isn’t just for the historical costumer!  It can also be for Cosplay.  So not just the historical stuff, but the Con-stuff, the Anime and the Super Heroes stuff, the stuff that would make me step outside my comfort zone.  And not just sewing!  I want to blog about everything it takes to become a cosplayer, in whatever genre lights your candle.  Love the middle ages?  I can SCA with the best of them.  The Bard is your Bitch?  I’ve done my time in the Ren Faire Trenches.  Twi’lek…well, that will take some work.  But I’m willing to learn!

So I cataloged my strengths and weaknesses and figured out what I need to do to become at least moderately accomplished as a cosplayer.  While I totally understand and admire the raw courage it takes to put on a costume and go out in public, I also believe anything worth doing is worth doing right.  And if you’re going to do something… Balls to the wall baby.

So, strengths for cosplay.

  1. I can sew.  I mean, expert level, couture quality sewing…when I take my time.  If it’s rushed, I am not ashamed to use pinking shears to finish my raw edges.  But my hand sewing creates invisible seams, nearly machine perfect stitching.
  2. Completely shameless.  I haven’t gone out dressed like Wonder Woman only because I lack the proper costume.  I am not shy and have no qualms about public displays.


  1. Need to lose weight.  I love the body positivity movement, but seriously, for my health, I need to lose about 40 pounds.
  2. Makeup.  I have it.  I wear it daily.  It’s basically functional.  I see YouTube videos of makeup artists turning themselves in to dopplegangers of Angelina Jolie and then Keith Richards and am pretty convinced that these people are the source of legends about shape shifters and glamour spells and that in Snow White, when the evil queen transformed herself…It wasn’t a spell, it was her MAC makeup kit.  Seriously.  I am NOT one of those people.  I need to be.
  3. Hair.
  4. WIGS!  I will probably get around my complete inability to control my hair with copious amounts of wigs.  Not sure where I’m going to put them, but I’ll burn that bridge when I cross it.
  5. Leather.  I can sew any medium that is fabric, including vinyl and latex.  Leather is not fabric.  I either need to get real friendly with a leather smith, or learn to sew leather.
  6. Body paint.  Not like makeup, but like air brushed body paint, so I can be Twi’lek…especially since I’m getting Lekku from Firelight Cosplay for Christmas.

Lot of weaknesses to work on.  Little bit at a time, and by the time Wizard Con in Sacramento rolls around in June, I should be at least a little ready.  Here’s to the new year, and a year of new cosplay!

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Washing Silk

While I do plan to create more videos…eventually… it is a right pain in the butt to set up the camera, ramble…coherently no less….for at least five minutes, edit out the ums and ahs, and get the video posted.  Traditional blogging is much quicker and so I will probably blog more than I vlog.  At least in this first start up bit where I’m still getting my feet under me.  Plus, I’m sort of cheating with this blog by basically copying my care and feeding page for your perusal.  I updated it, after much trial and error, and am fairly comfortable with what I’ve come up with as a means and method of washing silk.  It takes a bit of time, but mostly it’s hurry up and wait.

So, below are the instructions I have come up with for The Care and Feeding of Silk…also known as Washing Silk and can be found at the links to the left.

Care and Feeding of Silk Fabric

That may be a bit dramatic. Silk doesn’t ACTUALLY need to be fed. But it does need a little TLC to maintain its beauty. Here is what we do when making beauty with Damask Raven silks.  These were the steps obtained after much trial and error, using different soaps and soap combinations.

You may choose to Color test a small swatch. Believe it or not, even with huge advances in dyeing technology, lots of times the fabric will still bleed the excess dye off during washing. This doesn’t mean you can’t wash the fabric, just make sure you are ok with the level of bleed off before dunking the whole big piece. More than likely (but not guaranteed), it will only bleed off once and future washings will result in no additional loss of color saturation. Added bonus to washing first: bleed off will occur in the wash water, rather than on your skin during wearing.  I am a very impatient person.  Also, I accept that color bleed is a fact of sewing life, so I skipped the color swatch.  But do what you are comfortable with.

Color Test: Fill a bowl with lukewarm water. Add a teaspoon of your intended cleaning product. Soak the swatch in the bowl for a fifteen minutes. Rinse the swatch in cold water and roll in to a white towel. If any of the color transfers, there is dye bleed off.  VERY IMPORTANT!  Not just silk, but ANY fabric you buy, is prone to color bleed.  Ever wash a red sock with a white towel?  That is color bleed.  Not saying there is no way to avoid it completely, but if there is, I haven’t located that secret yet.  I promise to share if I do.

Now to wash:

  1. Fill your sink or wash basin with lukewarm water. Ok, not to the top. Leave some room for the fabric so you don’t slosh water all over the place resulting in flooded desolation. Also, lukewarm is something I had to look up. Seriously, I had no idea it was warmish, closer to cold, water. Seriously, who does that to themselves?
  2. As the sink is filling with lukewarm water, add a very gentle soap. I use one tablespoon to a full sink of Dr. Bronner’s Baby Soap. DO NOT use detergents like Tide, Gain, or anything with harsh chemicals…not even Woolite.  I actually began washing silk with Woolite and the color bleed was alarming.  I was pretty convinced my red fabric was going to come out pink from color loss.  While that didn’t happen, and my red is still a vibrant red, the color loss was minimal when using Dr. Bronner’s vs. Woolite.
  3. Submerge your fabric. If you purchased more than one piece, wash each separately and change the water between washes. You don’t want to wash a vibrant red then find the blue in the next wash is now purple from bleed off. You truly don’t need to agitate it any, since when you start the rinse, you will be handling the silk plenty.  I have found that after the fabric is submerged, walk away.  Leave if for at least an hour.  If you happen to be walking by and feel the need to swirl the fabric around, go ahead!  But really, it isn’t necessary.
  4. Move the fabric to the side and pull the plug.  Once the water had drained,
  5. Refill sink with cold water and a half cup of vinegar to begin the rinse. The vinegar serves several functions.  It helps break up the Dr. Bronner’s which is still in the fabric.  It helps the fabric keep a lustrous look to it. And, most importantly, it helps the dye to set.  Let soak another hour before draining the sink again.
  6. While your fabric is soak/rinsing, lay out towels on a large flat surface, end to end.  Like you are creating yardages of towels.  You don’t need so much that you have yard for yard of your silk, just enough that you can roll the silk.
  7. At this point, you have two options:  A) Refill the sink with plain water and let the fabric sit 30 minutes, or B) Let the cold water run over your fabric while you push the water gently through. Think washerwoman on the river bank while you make sure there are no suds left on your fabric. If you choose option A, make sure to follow through with option B when the thirty minutes are up.  They probably wouldn’t really damage the fabric, but might cause you some irritation if you are wearing your new dress with a patch of dried soap pressed against your skin.
  8. DO NOT WRING OUT THE FABRIC! I know it’s hard. You wash the dishes, you wring out the dishcloth. Twisting puts stress on the silk. While silk is generally not as delicate as its reputation leads one to believe, you don’t want to distort it or add wrinkles where none need to be.
  9. Take your newly washed silk over to the towels you have laid out. Spread your silk as best you can on the towels. Unless you have bigger towels than me, you will probably have to fold the silk over on itself. This is ok. Once you are satisfied with your silk arrangement, begin to roll the towel up with the silk inside it. This is gentler than wringing the fabric and will press the excess water out.
  10. Unroll the towel and leave the silk to air dry. This gets especially exciting when you have cats, because they REALLY like silk. If you had to fold the silk to lay it on the towel, you may have to turn the silk once to let the other side air dry.  OR, and this is what I did to keep the cats off:  you can buy a clothes rack and drape the silk over that.
  11. Once the silk is dry, use a pressing cloth and a cool to low heat iron to iron out the wrinkles. Suggested: Test your irons heat on the swatch you color tested. Better Suggestion: USE A PRESSING CLOTH.
  12. Cut and sew your beautiful new fabric in to your new dress or tunic.
  13. Share your pictures at Damask Raven and show us all how you do History in Style.



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Welcome to Ravens Chatter

Hello There!  Welcome to Ravens Chatter.  Here is where I will be…eventually…posting video clips about all things Damask Raven.  From what is MM to differences between Damask and Brocade, different silk patterns and weaves, what patterns I use for costume creations, tricks and tips.  All these things will be discussed and shared.  Raven’s Chatter seems appropriate, since I’m pretty sure I sound like a squawking bird when I talk…and have you ever heard Ravens Chatter at each other?  They share information with each other just as I will share what information I have learned with  you.