Sunday, June 17, 2012

Silks and Wedding quilts

The bride loves green; the groom likes blue
 The wedding is in August, and the applique is finally done on the wedding quilt.  I'm almost finished with piecing the top, and still debating with myself over whether hand applique demands hand quilting.   By sometime tomorrow I have to make a decision. 

The interplay of color and line in this block with its setting triangles intrigues me.  I prefer batiks for applique for several reasons, formost the depth and intensity of color.  At the Home Machine Quilting Show in Salt Lake City this spring, I heard a salesman explaining that his batiks are more suitable for quilts because they have a lower thread count.  It didn't seem appropriate to break into his conversation to say that the high thread count, and resulting smooth surface, is part of what draws me to the batiks section over and over. 

Notes on sewing with silks:  This is partly to the new friend we met today at Caledonia fabrics in Boise, Idaho, and for anyone else who is mostly a quilter but loves other fibers too:

     *  Hand baste seams if your silk is slippery.  It doesn't take long, and holds layers together until   you complete the seam. It also removes the risk of sewing over a pin and marking the silk. 
     *  Use silk organza for interlining facings, cuff, and collars if you can get it, instead of iron-in or plain polyester interfacing.
     *  Use cotton thread rather than polyester or silk.  You want the thread to fail before the fabric does if there is unusual stress on a seam.
     *  Use thin sharp pins, and select machine needles in the 65-70 range.
     *  Pin inside the seam allowance, and don't sew over pins.
     *  Unless you plan to wash the garment, use a dry iron for all pressing.
     *  If you aren't lining the garment, consider either French seams or bound seams.  Of course, you can serge or zig-zag to secure seam edges, but again it depends on why you are sewing with silk.  My silk wedding dress has French seams anywhere the seams are exposed, but the lined bodice seams are just enclosed in the lining.  Wedding dresses don't get much wear, after all. 
    *   Obsess about the fit of the garment.  You can reduce the possibility of excessive tension on a seam by making sure the garment fits well and has enough ease for movement.

Even very finely woven silks are not as delicate as cottons of the same weight.  Remember, nylon is an artificial silk, and has historically been used to replace silk in parachutes and other light-and-strong applications. 

Silk is fabulous to work with and to wear.  Silk fabrics will tolerate hand or even machine washing on a delicates cycle, but washing will change the surface texture, and on smooth silks even a drop of water leaves a mark. So much depends on the purpose of the garment!  My grandmother Elsie had a pair of silk denim slacks she wore for about thirty years, occasionally complaining that they refused to wear out. 

For a wonderful variety of all sorts of silks at not unreasonable prices, check out

Caledonia Fine Fabrics in Boise has a great selection of silks, linens, wools, cottons, bridal lace, ultra suede, and fine trimmings.  There isn't a better source for fine fabrics in Utah or Idaho.  I haven't ordered from the website, but the photos of fabric are true to color, and the staff at the shop is very pleasant and helpful.

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