Tips for Working with Silk

Silk is a natural fiber I both adore and dread. The result is always lovely. However, because I’m very rough on my hands and tools, for years avoided working with it at all. My tips for working with silk are simple and effective: hydrate, smooth, select, and swatch.

Hydrate & Smooth

Hands being held over a lawn and autumn leaves. The fingers are covered in dirt and it's caked into the nail beds. The right thumb has a bandage.

It seems that I want to work with silk after I’ve spent the day working in the garden or on a house DIY project. I don’t think I’ll ever break the habit of using my thumb instead of a screwdriver, scraper, or a ruler to measure an inch.

Every time, before I pick up any silk project, I first tend to my hands. They get a scrub in warm soapy water, nails are filed if necessary, and rough bits are carefully trimmed. Then I use a lotion to hydrate my skin. I’m partial to non-greasy bars that contain ingredients such as shea butter, coconut oil, and/or beeswax.

Select & Swatch

The tools I use for working with silk are not always the same ones I would use for a wool or wool blend. Silk can be both slippery yet sticky. What tool I choose for a particular project depends on what I’m creating. Maybe the stitch benefits from a pointier tip or I prefer the gauge a bamboo needle provides.

What magical tool do I use for silk? If you’ve followed me for any length of time you already know the answer. I swatch. Ok, I don’t swatch again if I’m picking up an ongoing project, but I take extra time before I jump into a project to work out what will give me the most successful result.

I hope these simple tips help you work successfully with silk. 

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