Silk yarn is like knitting with a dreamy, smooth, and silky material. It’s lovely to work with. But, if you want to use silk yarn for your knitting project, there are a few important things to keep in mind. Silk is delicate, and it needs some extra care compared to other yarns.
We’ll explore the key things you should learn before you begin knitting with silk yarns.
- The Rich Legacy of Silk: A Brief Historical Journey
- Crafting Silk Yarn: The Art of Silk Yarn Production
- Properties of Silk Yarn
- The Benefits of Silk
- Disadvantages of Silk
- Crafting Elegance: A Guide to Knitting with Silk Yarn
- Selecting the Perfect Knitting Patterns
- Maintaining Your Completed Projects
- Blocking Your Silk Yarn Knitting Projects
Now, let’s examine silk yarn more closely, so you can figure out when it’s the best choice for your next knitting project.
The Rich Legacy of Silk: A Brief Historical Journey
- Silk is called animal fiber because even though we don’t shear it off an animal, it comes from a cocoon that silkworms make, so it’s linked to animals.
- Like linen, cotton, wool, and hemp, bamboo has been used as a fabric for a very long time. People in China were using it as far back as 3500 BC. Later on, around 300 AD, the practice of raising silkworms for their silk spread to other parts of Asia, like Japan and India.
- Silk can be made in two ways. One way is by feeding silkworms with mulberry leaves, which creates a fine silk called mulberry silk. The other way is by getting silk from wild silkworms, and this kind of silk is not as smooth; it’s a bit rough.
Crafting Silk Yarn: The Art of Silk Yarn Production
- Silk is made from the homes of silkworms. First, the mommy moth lays about 400 to 600 eggs and then she dies. The baby worms hatch from these eggs and eat for around a month. They like to munch on special mulberry leaves. As they grow, they make a special kind of thread coated in a sticky substance called sericin. They use this thread to wrap themselves up, creating a cozy home called a cocoon. This thread can get really long, up to 1600 yards!
- When a silkworm finishes changing into a moth, it escapes from its small cocoon. People like to use these broken cocoons to make silk, but the ones that are still whole are even better. So, they sort the cocoons into two groups. The big ones are saved to keep growing more silkworms, and the others are collected for their silk.
- To make silk, they have to heat the cocoons, which is where silkworms turn into butterflies. Unfortunately, this process kills the pupa inside and makes the silk threads easier to use. When the cocoons are still wet, they take about 30 to 50 of these threads and twist them together into one strong silk thread using a special hand-operated tool. Some natural stuff called sericin helps hold these threads together. After that, they roll the silk threads into a bunch and wash, bleach, and color them. To make one pound of silk, about 5,500 silkworms are needed.
- When silk cocoons are broken or damaged, they can still be used. The long silk threads are separated into two groups. Some of the short threads are made into a type of fabric using a process like what’s done with other animal fibers. The rest of the longer threads are made into a different kind of fabric using a different process.
Properties of Silk Yarn
Silk yarn has some good things about it, but it also has some not-so-good things that knitters should know. It’s great for making light tops and shawls, and when mixed with other materials, it can look really shiny and nice. However, there are times when you shouldn’t use silk yarn (like definitely not for making dishcloths!).
The Benefits of Silk
Silk is quite similar to wool in many ways, and when you mix them together, you get a lovely fabric. However, silk has some unique qualities that make it special for knitting and making things like clothes.
- Drapes well
- Doesn’t shrink or stretch very much
- Is a good insulator
- Is moth and mildew-resistant
- Absorbs moisture
- Isn’t prone to pilling
- Has a rich lustre and sheen
- Is very smooth
- Is exceptionally strong
- Takes dyes well
This fabric is a fantastic option for lots of different clothing items like shawls, sweaters, cardigans, cozy accessories, and even socks. It works well for making all these things.
Disadvantages of Silk
Silk is really great in many ways, as we can see from the long list above. However, it also has a few downsides:
- It’s weak when wet
- Prone to fading
Silk can be quite pricey, mainly because it takes a lot of work to gather the fibers, as we talked about before. That’s why silk is often mixed with other materials. Mixing it with other fibers makes it cheaper and also gives the blend some good qualities, like extra shine and strength.
Crafting Elegance: A Guide to Knitting with Silk Yarn
- Silk yarn and yarn blends are great for knitting because silk makes it feel smooth and soft. It’s pretty strong, but it can get weaker when it’s wet and might lose its color. It works best when it’s mixed with other materials, especially wool. Even a small amount, like 5 or 10% silk in a blend, can make the yarn better. But because it can lose its color and make the knitting heavy, it’s best to use blends where silk is only about 15% of the yarn (especially for sweaters and cardigans).
- When working with silk blend yarns, pay attention to the type of needles you use. If your yarn is extra slippery, like when silk is mixed with plant fibers, it’s better to use needles made of wood, bamboo, or plastic. These materials give your stitches more grip and prevent them from sliding off, which can happen with metal needles.
- When you knit with 100% silk yarn, it’s easy to get a bit tense and knit too tightly. This happens because silk is smooth and can slip around, making your hands feel uncomfortable or even sore. Silk yarn is not as stretchy as wool, so that can make the problem worse. To avoid this, just try to stay relaxed and not grip the yarn too tightly when you’re working with silk or silk-blend yarns.
Selecting the Perfect Knitting Patterns
- When you knit with silk yarn or silk blends, you have endless possibilities. You can use them to make all kinds of clothes like shawls, sweaters, cardigans, cowls, hats, and accessories. Silk yarn makes your creations shiny, strong, and drape nicely.
- If you want to use fabric for things like dishcloths, children’s clothes, or hand towels that will be washed or get wet often, silk might not be the best option. That’s because silk is naturally weaker when it gets wet, so it may not hold up well for these purposes.
Maintaining Your Completed Projects
- When you’re knitting with silk, there’s something you need to be careful about. Silk needs special care, and here’s why: If it gets wet and needs cleaning, you have to be super gentle with it. You see, silk becomes weak when it’s wet. So, most silk yarns and yarn blends can only be washed by hand. But make sure to read the label on the yarn to know how to take care of it properly.
- When you’re washing clothes by hand, make sure to hold the entire piece of clothing in your hands. This helps prevent damage to the fabric. Also, be careful not to let the wet clothes stretch or droop.
- Using a spray to freshen up silk clothes is a good idea. You can do this by placing the garment on a towel or a flat surface and using pins to shape it if needed. Then, spray water on it until the fabric feels wet. Allow it to air dry completely before you handle or move it.
- You can also use a gentle method to freshen up silk yarns. Just give them a quick refresh using a handheld steamer or a clothing iron set to medium heat (never press the iron on the yarn – just use the steam, holding the iron about an inch away from the fabric). This is a good way to take care of your hand-knit items made from silk.
Blocking Your Silk Yarn Knitting Projects
Silk yarns can become weak when they get wet, so it’s a good idea to use a method called “spray blocking” to shape and finish your silk knitting projects. But if you prefer, you can also wash them by hand. To be extra sure, it’s a good practice to knit a small test piece and try out your chosen method on it first.
- Spray-blocking: Lay your clothing on a towel or a flat surface like a blocking board. If necessary, use pins to give it the right shape. Gently spray the garment with lukewarm water until it’s damp. If you see extra water, carefully blot it away, especially near the pins or wires. Then, just leave the garment alone until it’s completely dry.
- Hand washing silk: Get a small bowl and fill it with cool or lukewarm water. Add a bit of mild soap to the water. Put your clothing in the soapy water and use your fingers to remove any spots or stains. Leave the clothing in the water for a little while. When it’s time to rinse the clothing, hold it to one side of the bowl, pour out the soapy water, and replace it with clean water. To dry the clothing, gently pick it up out of the water, squeeze out the extra water, then lay it on a towel, roll it up, and press to remove more water.
- Wet-blocking: After you wash it, put the piece of clothing on a dry towel or a mesh sweater dryer and arrange it in the way you want it to stay. Be sure to gently stretch any lace or other decorative openwork parts to make them look nice.
- Soft or crisp hand
- Drapes and tailors well
- Thinnest of all-natural fibers
- Dyes and prints well
- Hand-washable or dry-cleanable
- Little problem with static, no pilling problem
- Only fair abrasion resistance
- Poor resistance to prolonged exposure to sunlight
Major end uses:
- Apparel: Dresses, blouses, skirts, jackets, pants, pants, scarves, ties.
- Home Fashion: Curtains, draperies, upholstery.
1. What are the suitable uses for silk yarn?
Silk is an excellent option for making lovely shawls, and it offers strength, a shiny look, and a beautiful glow when mixed with other materials. When we mix it with wool, it’s great for making warm sweaters, cardigans, and accessories like hats and cowls. If we blend it with cotton or linen, it’s just right for creating lightweight tops and tank tops that are perfect for hot summer weather.
2. What category of textile fiber does silk belong to?
Most silk yarn you find in stores is called mulberry silk. It’s very smooth and shiny. But there are also rougher silk yarns made from different kinds of silk.
3. What is the proper method for washing silk yarn?
When you have something made of silk yarn, like a project, it’s best to wash it by hand. Silk can be very delicate when it gets wet, so you need to be gentle with it. After washing, take it out of the water carefully, and gently squeeze out the extra water. Then, roll it up in a towel to get rid of even more water. After that, lay it flat to dry on a towel or a mesh dryer.
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