TemariKai Logo


  Stitching with Silk Thread 

        Silk is a traditional fiber to use in making temari. In ancient Japan, when a garment or household item was no longer usable, even after mending, it would be taken apart and any usable bits of fabric and thread would be kept to be used again in a new item. It was only after this cycle was repeated several times that threads made their way to uses for non-essential items like toys and thus temari, but make their way they did. In the higher social classes, it was predominantly silk; in the lower ones, cotton and other less-impressive fibers.  - originally it was recovered from old garments and items and reused over and over again.... ultimately in even things such as temari for the children. Therefore, silk is still very much in use for contemporary temari, and available from several major fiber suppliers; smaller businesses specialize in it (a web search will lead you to many).  While not difficult to use, it does help to remember some hints on handling it for the most rewarding experience and outcome with it. Through the years we've collected information on using silk.

        Two characteristics of silk thread make it a great choice for all forms of needlework. First, it takes dye better than any other fiber, making the colors of silk quite brilliant. Second, it has a lovely sheen which really shows well in techniques like temari where the stitches are long. Silk thread comes in many forms; two of the most common for embroidery are filament and stranded.  Filament silk is considerably more delicate than stranded silk, and it will snag and catch on pretty much anything which is the least little bit rough. While all silk thread has a sheen, filament silk is the most shiny. Two common embroidery threads which are filament silk are Trebezond and Silk Serica.  Stranded silk is like embroidery floss and can be plied (separated). There are many brands of stranded silk on the market, and they have different numbers of plies in them.  If you are  using stranded silk, you don't need to take many more precautions while working with them than you would for working with floss. However, when using filament silk, one needs to be sure that your hands are absolutely smooth, otherwise the thread will catch on even the littlest bit of rough skin or nail. Silk is also spun into perle (pearl) - in form, like pearl cotton, only composed of silk. It handles and works similar to pearl cotton, but has the sheen of silk, and is much easier to use than filament silk.

       As mentioned, it does help to prepare your hands before working with silk; while imperative for filament, it also helps a lot with stranded and perle. Trim any rough cuticles, and be sure your nails are smooth. Use a non-greasy hand lotion or cream to help smooth out rough skin. If using more delicate silks, ideally the skin lotion should be pH-balanced (it will say so on the label of general products, and if you do a lot of silk work, there are hand creams made just for this). It should not contain lanolin (lanolin residue on your hands can stain the silk). Another quick trick if you don't have lotion available: combine about a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of mayonnaise (!) in your hands and rub all over. Wash your hands, and you should find that the skin has been smoothed. Another tip from a silk spinner is to cut a lemon into wedges, rub over the hands, let it dry and then begin to stitch or spin.
This is a TemariKai.com Printable Page; © 2014, all rights reserved. Right click to print one copy for personal use.

Last updated 1/2014 © 1998 - 2014 TemariKai.com, G. Thompson/PuffinStuff, Inc.